Every once and a while, a small fact in Scripture enters my heart and sticks in such a way as to open door for healing and new growth. That happened recently as I was reflecting on the story of the prodigal son. Have you ever noticed that when the son returned, he planned to return as a servant but the father would not allow it? Looking into the eyes of my grand-daughter, Georgia, I get that. Though the son felt unworthy, the place of the slave was not his true identity: he was a son. A slave would only be a mask, a pretense.
I see a similar struggle in Martha. In two of the three stories we have of her life, she is referenced as serving (Luke 10, John 12) By contrast, we find Mary seated to learn and later offering a beautiful, intimate act of worship in the anointing of Jesus. Could it be that Martha only saw herself as a servant and not as a beloved daughter worthy of self-care and intimate, personal engagement? As I look at these sisters, I am reminded of a pattern I observe as I listen to my life and to others these days: those who know they are beloved tend to serve others in healthy ways; but those who serve others don’t necessarily believe or remember that they are first and foremost beloved.
It seems to me that this confusion about beloved and servant is rampant in our church culture these days. It forms, perhaps, the deep core of many of our struggles with boundaries… we abuse ourselves because we think we are more truly servant than beloved. It is also the core issue behind many of us as women never taking the time, paying the cost, or daring the risk to dream our dreams and pursue our passions. We are too busy being only a servant to others to dare to live into our belovedness to God.
This October, my husband and I will be making a pilgrimage to Germany with some friends, visiting several monasteries and learning a lot about St. Hildegard a wise woman of old. (My personal exploration of choosing to live as beloved) St. Hildegard knew Love and belovedness in deep ways. She was both scientist and mystic, musician and voice of wisdom to the church of her time. Watch my blog for updates and pictures.