Jesus and his disciples came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10: 38-42
Many of us identify with Martha in this story. She welcomed Jesus to her home. She worked hard to serve him and her family. She was angry that her sister wasn’t working. Jesus’ response was to lovingly tell Martha that she was worried and upset about many things, but that she had forgotten what was most important in life.
One of the opportunities that cancer brings is the opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities and to reconsider our values. Cancer stops us. It gives us pause to think. It causes us to ask hard questions about who we are and what we value most in life.
Because of the demands of everyday life, we often loose sight of these things. We are very busy. And we seem to like it that way. We spend our lives reacting and responding to the endless demands that are made on us. Rarely do we evaluate. Rarely do we reflect. Rarely do we look inward.
Cancer helps us do all these things. Money, power, status and prestige suddenly seem less important. Relationships and spiritual growth take on deeper meaning. We often have an increased desire to spend more time relating to ourselves, others and God.
The opportunity to reflect and evaluate can be one of the gifts that cancer brings into our lives. In the moments of solitude and reflection that cancer brings, we are able to reconsider what our lives are all about. Here’s how Henri Nouwen talks about this:
Solitude is the place of purification and transformation, the place of the great struggle and the great encounter. Solitude is not simply a means to an end. Solitude is its own end. It is the place where Christ remodels us in his own image and frees us from the victimizing compulsions of the world…. In solitude our heart of stone can be turned into a heart of flesh, a rebellious heart into a contrite heart, and a closed heart into a heart that can open itself to all suffering people in a gesture of solidarity. ( Nouwen, The Way of the Heart).
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
1. Think of a time when doing too many things created a problem for you and describe the problems it created.
2. What unrealistic expectations do you have of yourself that might lead you to over doing?
3. What changes in values and priorities have you experienced because of cancer?
Questions for Discussion – Session 2
1. List the five things you value most in life.
2. Describe what you can do on an ongoing basis to express each of these values.