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Time After Time

When my second daughter, Kate, was 5 years old, my wife called me one afternoon. Before I continue, I should share with you that Kate is the most emotional of our three girls. When she’s happy, I find her smile and laugh irresistible. Her joy is downright contagious. It’s hard not to be happy when she’s happy. And the same is true when she’s sad. You can’t help but get pulled in. You don’t just hear her cry—you feel it!

So I wasn’t too surprised when I heard Kate crying in the background when my wife called me that day. “What is it this time?” I asked.

My wife doesn’t call me every time Kate cries. (If she had, it would have practically been a daily call.) But this one was a little different. They were driving home, after my wife having picked up Kate, from school. It seemed like any other day. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Kate started crying. More like sobbing. Thinking something must have happened, my wife, like any good mom, immediately started looking for the source. But Kate didn’t hurt herself. She didn’t get into a fight with one of her sisters. She wasn’t upset because she didn’t get something she wanted. After my wife quickly dismissed these possible explanations, she simply asked, “Kate, why are you crying?”

“I miss Daddy,” Kate sobbed.

I try my best to avoid overnight business trips. I’m fortunate that my job doesn’t require it very often. But every once in a while, I’ve got to do it. In this case, I was at a conference. It was only a two-day trip but I guess it was long enough to trigger a reaction from Kate. My wife was curious and explored further.

“Why do you love Daddy so much?” my wife asked.

“Because he hugs and kisses me,” she said. And then she added something that surprised me. “And because he spends time with me.”

Of course, as a parent, I know how important it is that we spend time with our children. But it’s not what I expected to hear from a 5-year-old. I thought she might have mentioned something about the things I bought her or the places I took her.

Her tears were simply an expression of her love for me. But her love is based on much more than an emotional outburst. There’s a lot more to it. There’s a strong bond—a deep relationship that has grown over time. No need for a sophisticated psychoanalysis here. Even a 5-year-old had the answer.

“Because he spends time with me.”

Jesus emphasized the importance of this point through Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42. Martha had welcomed Jesus and his disciples into her home. Imagine Jesus visiting you. What would you have done? How would you have acted?

Martha clearly understood the importance of this occasion, and she wasn’t about to blow it. Since it appears that she was the one who invited Jesus, perhaps she felt a greater sense of obligation. Or maybe she was simply the more responsible one—the structured, anal-retentive, Type-A. Whatever the reason, she was busy preparing—and worrying about—the big dinner.

Martha’s sister, Mary, equally understood the importance of this occasion. But she seemed less concerned about blowing it, and more focused on wanting to make sure she didn’t miss out on this rare opportunity. Maybe she was the free-spirited, social one in the family. Whatever the reason, Mary didn’t seem to be worrying about anything at all. Nor did she seem to be doing much. She simply “sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught” (Luke 10:39).

It didn’t take Martha very long to conclude something wasn’t quite right. Reflective of her personality, “She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me’” (Luke 10:40).

In some ways, I wonder if Martha was unfairly represented just a bit. She’s portrayed as grumpy, tightly-wound and, to top it off, a snitch, too. Maybe she loved Jesus just as much as Mary did, and was equally excited about having Jesus in her home. Just so happens she had a different way of expressing it. The Bible doesn’t say. But it does make one thing clear: how Jesus felt about the two sisters’ very different approaches to their hospitality.

“But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it away from her’” (Luke 10:41, 42). Mary was simply receiving Jesus’ love. Soaking it in. Experiencing the moment. Martha, on the other hand, was too busy. Even something that seemed so worthwhile—after all, she was doing it all for Jesus—got in the way, causing her to miss out on the moment. The opportunity. The relationship.

Sounds a lot like my church work, if I lose sight of why I’m doing it.

In order to love God, you have to know Him. In order to know Him, you have to spend time with Him. There’s really no way around it. God wants our time, plain and simple.

I didn’t think I spent enough time with my kids. But whatever time it was, it’s what Kate remembered. No matter what else I do to show I love her, there’s nothing that can replace our time together. No substitute. No shortcut. No secrets.

It made me wonder if I miss my Heavenly Father the same way. For most of my life, if I were to be completely honest, I can’t say I did. Why not? What was missing? Could it be I was overthinking it, searching for that deep spiritual experience, when it was really as simple as…time?

Tony Yang is the English Ministry pastor at Olympic Korean SDA Church in Los Angeles. He’s also the author of Are You Sure You Want to Love God? (You Might Start Using the “O” Word). Stay connected by liking his Facebook page at facebook.com/tonyyangauthor.

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