This past week I noticed that I was becoming a bit negative and irritable. Harried and frazzled, I was having a hard time focusing on what I needed to accomplish. As I tried to determine what was making me feel this way, I realized that I had not taken time for myself. I hadn't given myself opportunities for silence, rejuvenation, and stillness.
I often feel torn between competing "goods." As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have made covenants of consecration to God. These covenants motivate me to serve those around me - to give of my talents and time. I feel that serving and giving freely of my time - essentially turning over everything I have to the Lord - brings me great joy and fulfillment. But a person cannot give all the time. There are times when you give more, and other times when you receive more; but no matter the stage, everybody needs to take time to fill themselves and tend to their own needs. The struggle I experience is defining the point where my own pursuits are selfish. I guess it is a matter of dividing needs from wants, but that division for me is ever-elusive.
I think of Martha who was doing praiseworthy, good things: "cumbered about much serving." In a very real sense, she was providing service to God. But, as Elder Oaks mentions, her service at that moment wasn't the best thing she could be engaging in. Meanwhile, Mary sat at Christ's feet, learning about the gospel. She was filling herself and increasing her spiritual capacity. While not degrading the value or importance of what Martha was doing, Christ guided her, saying "One thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part."
So, what is that needful thing? Elder Oaks said, "just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it... Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished." I completely agree, but conflict creeps in as I apply the principle. It could very well be self-fabricated conflict, non-existent in reality. For example, if on a given evening I arrive at the conclusion that it is essential to devote time to myself, and deem an opportunity for service as just good, is that all right? Knowing that in every circumstance the needful will vary, could that decision be classified as choosing the needful, or is it selfish? Is doing so contradicting my covenant to give all I have, including my time and effort, to God?