When I was a senior in high school, I lacked one English credit needed to graduate. I had extra credit for many extracurricular activities. I liked school and took advantage of every opportunity afforded me. I applied to the school board to skip my senior year and go directly to college, but as the time grew near the school board denied my request. I decided to take whatever classes I thought would be fun and interesting. I reasoned that quite a few of my relatives were college professors and teachers, night classes at the university would be fun and easy. To my surprise, college was harder than I thought. The main problem was I was young and inexperienced in life and most of my fellow college students had already grown up and were seasoned in life; it seemed easier for them and more difficult for me fresh out of high school.
My father announced he was divorcing my mother after 25 years of marriage. My world was rocked. I had always planned on going on a mission, but now it seemed that there were financial problems everywhere. My resources vanished as the divorce dragged on. It seemed to me in those dark moments that I might not be financially able to go on am mission and perhaps getting married to my high school sweetheart started to look pretty good. I knew in my heart it was unacceptable and I would regret it later if I did not go. Making my decision even harder, two of my high school employers were now offering me full time contracts with substantially higher pay and an unbelievable benefit packages, including full medical, vision, college reimbursement, and opportunities for advancement in the future. It deserved serious consideration and so my world was complicated. Eventually after many hours of prayer and almost a year trying to put my financial life in order I completed my papers for the mission. Received my call and completed my mission.
When I came home I was a busy fellow. My father had pre-registered me to start university the day after my return. I had my boots on the ground before I even got home. I was anxious to start my academic training and my mission gave me confidence I would no longer be handicapped by my age and lack of experience. I planned a rigorous schedule. My first quarter I had 15 credits (12 was considered .full-time). Many of my pre-mission friends were already juniors when I started. I was determined I would graduate with them. Indeed over the next two years I immersed myself in my academic studies often with as many as 19-27 quarter credits and special required permission from several Deans and even the College President. A typical day for me, my first class started at 7:30 AM and I did not come home until well after 11:00 PM (When the library closed and I walked home). One quarter I felt so busy I decided that I was too busy to take an institute class. It was a big mistake. So in addition to my “for credit classes” I always had at least one institute class. It was an oasis of peace in my day. On Sundays I was in a teacher training course and later a teacher for 11-13 year olds.
It seemed my every moment was planned. I knew exactly what and when I would be doing almost every moment. I also dated on weekends with a borrowed car or a double dated with friends and attended firesides and devotionals. I was consumed and exhausted. Once, one of my dates asked me “What are you doing for yourself? Are you sure you even have time to date? I am sorry to say I was mystified by the question.
One Sunday as I sat in sacrament meeting I opened my bible and there I read a story about Jesus visiting two sisters Mary and Martha. (See Luke 10:38-42) Mary sits and chats with Jesus while Martha was cumbered about much serving. After a while Martha grows resentful and asks Jesus “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving. “Tell her to help me” but Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful and Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.” Mary understands what is truly important. Martha’s anxiety and worry is manifest in her actions. Although they served, her actions did not bring joy, but resentment. Mary chose “to take pleasure in. and enjoy the presence of Christ.”
When I busied myself with my academic, church service and dating it was born out of anxiety and worry and perhaps extreme goal setting. I chose to ignore my surroundings and disappointments by occupying every waking moment with activity. I ignored myself because I did not know how to face my realities without feeling sorry for myself. The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. This assumes a healthy amount of self love. If we do not care for ourselves and turn to God, our families and friends to meet our needs, how are we able to care for anyone else? We are called to love God and neighbor, but also expected to love ourselves and face reality as unpleasant at that may be at times. God does not want us to be anxious and worried and so busy that forget to love ourselves, our families or neighbors. Jesus invites us to relax and merely sit in his presence, in short to enjoy, learn, grow, and be transformed by his love.
Mary chose the good part. We are called to do the same. We need to develop a personal relationship with God and be nourished and supported by His love. Only then can we be free to serve others with joy and bask in the generosity and warmth that comes only from experiencing God’s unconditional love. Once we have made that choice and acknowledge Gods presence, only then can we experience such a special peace, security and joy and that is ours and cannot be taken from us.
Article was written by Mel Borup Chandler
Mel Borup Chandler lives in California. He writes about science-related topics, technological breakthroughs and medicine. Mel is a former member of the Los Angeles Press Club. Additionally, he served an LDS Mission in Argentina during Argentina’s “Dirty War.” He has written for several Spanish language newspapers in the Los Angeles area including La Opinion and El Universal. His email address is [email protected]