I recently watched the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith. There is a scene in the movie where Will Smith’s character, Chris, solves a Rubik’s Cube in the back of a taxi, sitting next to a man he is desperately trying to impress for future career opportunities. My nearly 11-year-old son Liam watched the movie with me. Just two days later, I noticed he had blown the dust off his old Rubik’s Cube and was in full frustration mode trying to solve the seemingly impossible puzzle.
I realized the apple truly does not fall far from the tree: He inherited my Type-A, obsessive, perfectionist type personality (you’re welcome, kid!). While in some ways it is a good thing, in others it leads to frustration, irritation, and an all-out weariness of the soul.
The Rubik’s Cube was no exception. I saw him grow increasingly frustrated and increasingly zoned in on solving the infamous puzzle. He was in pure tunnel-vision mode. Nothing was going to distract him from solving that familiar, colorful cube of exasperation.
Except…bedtime. When his mean mommy practically had to rip the cube out of his little hands and force him to hit the hay. Knowing my son and his at-times obsessive personality, I can only imagine he dreamed of solving the puzzle.
How many times have I become hyper-focused on something in my own life? I have tried to force friendships, romantic relationships, work situations, you name it. I have tried to hammer that particular square peg into the infamous round hole, leading to dissatisfaction, frustration, and a feeling of defeat words cannot adequately express.
In the book of Luke, there is a story that has always resonated with me. Jesus was invited to the home of Martha. Her sister Mary was present for the meal. Martha (might as well be Manndi in this case) is essentially running around like a chicken with her head cut off, while desperately trying to make everything perfect. Was the soup hot enough? Was there sufficient wine? Oh no! A bit of dust on the floor…better get to that right away.
I can feel my blood pressure rising as I write these words, imagining the stress Martha must have felt trying to make her home a perfectly suitable paradise of hospitality for Jesus. And to see her dear sister, Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet and patiently, calmly, without a hint of stress or anxiety, hanging on his every word… That must have incensed poor Martha even further! How dare she do nothing, while Martha does everything! Yet…
If you recall from this story, Jesus’ very words are, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” BAM. There it is. Wisdom about the power of being present. Choosing to be still and listen to our Lord and Savior amidst the raging storms of life, which surround us every single day.
Though I am sure our heavenly father wants his children to be disciplined and work diligently toward their heart’s desire, I think the busyness of life sometimes forces us into tunnel vision that does nothing but hinder those very hopes and dreams we hold so dear.
At such junctures in life, when you find yourself so enmeshed with a project, career, relationship, or any desire which forces you into reclusive intensity, simply taking a breath, being still, and presently sitting at the feet of Jesus may be what is needed.
Earlier this summer, my fiancé tested positive for COVID. I found myself on a hamster wheel of turmoil; trying to care for him, avoid sickness myself, and fulfill all the necessary quarantine standards for my job as well as my children. Despite being vaccinated, I contracted the illness.
At a certain point during the illness, I was forced by my own body to relax, rest, and not carry the weight of the world upon my shoulders. I experienced a peace and tranquility of letting the fear dissipate. The essentials still got done. My work waited.
I recovered and realized that the turning point in our brush with a serious virus was actually a freeing time of struggle for myself. Perhaps perspective was the lesson Jesus was hoping to teach me long before COVID ever became a blip on my radar.
I think sometimes Jesus allows us to get so frustrated with the non-essential details of life, that we come to that point of defeat where we throw up our hands in surrender and say, “Okay, Lord…let’s do it your way.” He kindly, patiently, sweetly picks up our weary souls, loves them gracefully back to health, and lays out the plans he has for us in his time and in his way. How many times have I thought to myself, “I should have asked Him first…” It would have saved so much valued time, unnecessary trouble and fits of frustration.
Next time you find yourself so entangled in a looming deadline, relationship speed bump, or Rubik’s Cube of your own, just stop. Breathe. Seek Jesus in whatever way you can. Like Martha, who needed a reminder to slow down and focus less on the obsessive details and more on the Savior standing before her, that very same Savior showed up for me when I was battling my recent illness. I was blessed beyond measure to experience his peace which filled my soul, and his power which provided the will to keep going, the clarity to see answers, the wisdom to step back, and the ability to move forward.