Friday, October 12, 2007

In Defense of Apathy

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Luke 10:41—The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her.” (MSG)

My hubby and I were talking as we bustled around one morning getting ready to go somewhere. I don’t even remember the specific observation he made, but apparently I considered it trivial. It was something like “The chairs sure did get dirty fast” or “Man, that plant looks bad.” My reply was, “Who cares?”

Now, take note: it was not said in a snotty way and he didn’t take it that way. I meant it in a “that is so not a priority right now” sort of way. In fact, we started laughing, and he said “That’s great—apathy, ya gotta love it.”

Not two minutes later, I responded to something else he said with a similar “So?” As soon as our eyes connected we cracked up! We even began to think of other phrases to communicate apathy…Big deal! Oh well! I could not care any less than I do right now. Whatever! Talk to the hand. Doesn’t matter (or if you’re from where I’m from, “Dudn’t” matter). It has now become a running joke with us.

Here’s my disclaimer: OF COURSE when we’re dealing with others—family, friends, enemies, or strangers—and their needs, apathy is NOT an option for Christians. We are to wear love (Col. 3:14) and usually love and apathy blend about as well as oil and water. That’s a given.

But for a former perfectionist control-freak like me (okay, a current-but-workin’-on-it perfectionist control freak like me) a little apathy aimed in the right direction goes a long way in helping me walk in a more Christ-like way. Don’t believe me? Consider these examples:

*I’ve been working on my hair for fifteen minutes and my stubborn area will not conform to my wishes.
Option A: Waste more time on it, delaying breakfast for my family, and becoming crabby over something no one else will probably even notice.
Option B: Sigh “Oh well,” unplug the curling iron, and turn my attention to helping my family get ready for their day.

*A tractor pulls out right in front of me—I mean, how did he not see me?!
Option A: Think and probably mumble something derogatory as I get worked up and impatient to pass him.
Option B: Exhale “big deal” as I slow down and appreciate the beautiful autumn splendor all around me.

*One of the kiddos comes out to the breakfast table in socks that I certainly wouldn’t have chosen with the outfit.
Option A: Voice my opinion, showing clear disapproval at her choice, and force her to change into more appropriately suited hosiery.
Option B: Tell myself “So what?” At least she took creative initiative.

*Guests are arriving soon, one of whom is a pretty important gentleman. The house is a wreck and food needs prepared.
Option A: Fly into a cleaning and cooking frenzy, barking orders to anyone who dares to get in my way, or worse, doesn’t help.
Option B: “Who cares?!” (Actually, I do…I’m still working on that one.)

But you get the idea. Option A involves spending emotional energy on something inconsequential and possibly even doing some damage. Option B conserves my efforts for other more significant situations that will no doubt arise throughout the day.

You’ve heard the rhetorical question before: A year from now, will what you’re so worked up about really matter? When I ask myself that question, more often than not the reply is something along the lines of “A whole year? I probably won’t even remember two hours from now what currently has my panties in a bunge!”

It all comes down to choosing my battles, knowing which ones are worthy of my time and effort. Mismatched socks aren't, but my daughter developing her own style (albeit a quirky one) is. Being a few minutes late because of a slow moving vehicle isn’t, but honing patience and valuing others is. In fact, most situations dealing with appearances aren't, but the relationship involved most definitely is because it would be worthy to Jesus.

In fact, let’s look at that last example again. Martha was being a responsible hostess. She was expending her efforts to make a pleasing environment for her special guest and that ol’ Mary wasn’t doing her part. But Jesus praised her. She had chosen what was most important. If we placed the scenario in 2007, I can see Martha confronting Mary in a corner and Mary retorting, “Talk to the hand, Sister! I’m going to my Master’s feet.”

So I maintain that apathy has its place. When we use it to replace preoccupation with things that are insignificant to God, it's a tool for growth, for proper perspective. Still confined to our earthly bodies, we only have so much energy. Let’s use ours for what truly matters and develop some healthy apathy for the things that, over the long haul, really don’t.

Lord God, thank you for equipping your daughters with passion for what you’ve entrusted to us. Help us direct our energy towards only what matters to you and to say “Whatever!” as we walk away from the things that don’t. Give us discernment to know the difference. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Application: What kinds of situations do you tend to get worked up about? After you’re removed from them, does your perspective of their importance change? What’s your favorite apathetic response that you could pull out to use in such circumstances?

Power Verses:
Colossians 3:11—In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. (NLT ) (emphasis mine)

Daniel 12:13—And you? Go about your business without fretting or worrying. Relax. When it's all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward. (MSG)

Matthew 6:25—Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 2:22—What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? (NIV)

3 comments:

M. Milbourn said...

I love Daniel 12:13!! I don't know if I've ever seen that before. Good Word Kathy, and I love the prayer...I don't remember how you worded it, but something about "give us the discernment to know the difference!"

karen said...

Thank you so much, Kathy, for giving us permission to let those things that seem so big at the moment just go on by. I have become more and more about that lately. It is SO freeing, just the way I think the Lord wants us to feel.

Paula said...

I too love the scripture from Daniel. I love that Daniel was obedient to God and waited patiently on God for everything. I want to stop worrying about appearances and enjoy what God sets before me. I want to savor the moment, and not waste time or energy on worrying about what others will think (I'm still working on this!!) Who knows, maybe I'll enjoy a long life, and in the end receive my 'allotted inheritance' - an eternity at the feet of Jesus!!