I recently rewatched the 1991 movie, City Slickers. Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) is a 39 year-old in a mid-life crises. He and his two friends from the city have come out to a ranch for a two week vacation and a cattle drive from New Mexico to Colorado.
At the ranch, Mitch meets Curly (Jack Palance), an old cowboy with some wisdom about life. In one scene, Mitch and curly are out riding, and the conversation turns philosophical. Curly, sensing Mitch is after something deeper asks a question of his own.
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [pointing index finger skyward] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean s**t.
Mitch: But what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles, pointing his finger at Mitch] That’s what you have to find out.
Mitch goes on to help Curly deliver a calf, which Mitch names, Norman. Mitch later risks his own life to save Norman from a raging river during the cattle drive. These experiences cause Mitch to realize what the “one thing” is, and he goes back to New York with a new focus and sense of purpose.
The scene depicted by the narrative above is one of the most famous in movie history. It remains because it resonates. There is one thing that is most important, and once we realize that it puts everything else in a perspective.
38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42
Martha was focused on many things, probably preparing a meal, being a good host, and maintaining her reputation amongst her guests. This caused her anxiety, as a multitude of cascading concerns can.
But Jesus cut through it all, “…only one thing is necessary. For Mary has chosen the good part…” Luke 10:42. Mary had correctly chosen the one thing, and that one thing was her relationship with Jesus.
The Apostle Paul would later make a similar choice. Once he did, like Curly in City Slickers, he considered everything else “dung.” Philippians 3:8 (KJV)
We live in a far more complex world than that of the first century, but it gives rise to the same anxieties and confusion. Recognizing one’s relationship with Jesus is the one thing more important than anything reorders everything. GS