Those who know me will tell you that cooking is one of my most favorite activities. I love every part of it – chopping, frying, boiling, baking, blending, arranging, and especially eating. (I might love that part a little too much sometimes…) Meal times here make me happy because, more often than not, I’m the one who gets to do the cooking. And let me tell you, cooking in Thailand is so much different than cooking in the States. There are so many new flavors, new fruits and veggies that I’ve never heard of, and definitely a lot of experimenting to be done. The two other SMs who live with me usually help with food prep, but more often than not, they’re rather busy. Melissa and Danielle have pretty full schedules most days, and sometimes I’m left by myself for entire mornings. They work about 20-30 hours a week while I work about 15. That gives me a lot of free time that I wasn’t really expecting to have.
I had a lot of expectations about how life was going to work over here, and they’re not really matching up with reality. I thought I was going to be doing some huge work for the Lord by coming here, spending the majority of my time making friends and teaching them about God, but so far, it’s been me, myself, and I for most of every day. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love having my mornings free so I can spend more time cooking, reading, and doing other things around the house, but I didn’t come to Thailand to be a house keeper, I came to be a missionary… Right? Also, I’m kind of a work-aholic. It drives me crazy that I have nothing of real importance dominating my time throughout most of the day, and I often feel a slight bit of jealousy towards my fellow SMs who have full schedules. I try to fill my mornings with productive things like exercising, cooking (lots of cooking), cleaning, or doing other things around the house. I also try to go to the music school earlier than necessary so that I can do my own piano practicing. I find it very hard to relax because I feel guilty for coming all this way just to sit around and do nothing. However, when I do relax, it’s not very healthy, either. I end up on facebook for hours at a time, or sometimes I’ll take a nap (even if I woke up just a couple hours earlier). I’ve even found myself sitting on my bed staring at the wall thinking to myself, “Why did I wake up if there’s nothing to do?” So it’s either all or nothing in my world at the moment. I’m either doing a million things at once or doing nothing at all. Neither one is very fulfilling.
I’m reminded of the story of when Jesus went to Mary and Martha’s house. Martha was busy cooking, preparing a big meal for Jesus and His friends, but Mary didn’t help her with any of the preparations. She spent her time sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words of wisdom and comfort, not even thinking about her sister in the other room, slaving away on the meal prep. Now, when I used to read this story, I felt sorry for Martha. She dedicated her time and energy to making Jesus feel comfortable, acting as a true servant, whereas Mary spent all her time “mingling with the guests”, selfishly soaking up Jesus’ blessings while her sister did all the work. However, now that I know what a huge process preparing a meal can be, I’m a little more understanding of both parties. I don’t blame Mary for not wanting to help (because, believe it or not, some people actually don’t enjoy cooking), and I don’t blame Martha for wanting everything to be perfect (because for those who do like cooking the important thing is that people enjoy the product as much as the cook enjoyed the process). I tend to find myself relating more to Martha’s side of the story though, because that’s exactly where I would be in that situation. I enjoy cooking, and I see it as one of my love languages. I cook to show people I care about them. Now that I have all this time to myself every day, I’m realizing that the majority of it is spent doing house-work that isn’t actually that important. Yes, cleaning and cooking needs to get done, but it doesn’t take all morning to do. Even if I had a four-course meal to prepare for Jesus and His friends, would that really be more important than simply spending time with Him? Should I really be spending my mornings doing busy work to keep myself occupied (i.e. cooking and cleaning) while Jesus is in the other room waiting for me to come sit at His feet? Or, even worse, should I sit on my bed and stare at the wall or at my facebook feed while less than two feet away there’s a Bible anxiously waiting for me to open and study it?
Maybe my year as a Student Missionary wasn’t actually meant to only benefit the people of Thailand. Yes, I still want to make friends with the locals, continue learning the language, dedicate more time to the music school, and possibly even volunteer at other places. But maybe God really wanted me to come to Thailand so that I could get finally away from the distractions of school, work, and friends, and actually be able to spend quality time with my Creator. Maybe I’m supposed to be using my loads of free time to learn how to connect with God. I thought my walk with God was pretty good, and then I realized that my whole life I’ve been Martha – putting work FOR the Lord in a higher priority than time WITH the Lord. I can’t be a missionary without first having my heart in the right place. It’s time to put Martha on the back-burner (yes, that was a bad cooking pun) and bring out my inner Mary. I think I’m finally ready to put busy work aside and learn to simply sit at the feet of Jesus.