“And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.'” — Luke 10:41
Martha. I get her, I REALLY get her. She loved Jesus. She really LOVED Him. She really BELIEVED in Him and God’s Word. And, yet, most of Martha’s friends and relatives, if asked, would probably say that Mary was “more” Christian than Martha, based on what they observed.
I get it. Martha is busy making sure that there is enough food for her family and her guests. She has Post-Its tacked on the fridge, on the cupboard doors, and to the dashboard on her car. She’s made sure that the linens are washed, all the beds are made, and there are fresh flowers in the guests’ rooms. She’s made sure that there are bowls of nuts, pretzels, and chips (with dip!) on the coffee table to carry her guests’ appetites over until dinner, served HOT, is ready. She’s loaded up the tray with drinks and is on her way to make the rounds of the house to make sure no one is thirsty.
Meanwhile, her sister, Mary, is sitting in the over-stuffed chair in the livingroom all morning reading her Bible. She’s taking a long shower, getting dressed for the party, fixing her hair, painting her nails, spritzing on some perfume, and is ready to greet all the guests as they arrived. She’s pulling up a pillow on the floor and melding with the conversation at hand, sharing stories and listening to everyone share theirs.
Yeah, I get it. And even though we all are equally Martha AND Mary at heart — most of the time though we’re busy being Martha.
Fridays start to feel like Christmas is coming and we’re busy preparing for the weekend. When Monday arrives it’s like New Year’s Day as we attempt to get back on tract with eating healthy, exercising, watching less T.V., reading more, attempting to prioritize our days and taking note of obligations laced with school functions, sports activities, job responsibilities, and everyday must-do’s. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, pass me a pen so I can make out the bills.
I SO get it.
I read my Bible, daily. I pray the Rosary, daily. I ponder on God’s Word all.the.time. I underscore, highlight, and jot down Scripture passages that speak to me. I read books that uplift my soul and offer me advice on how I, too, can lift up others. I attend Mass and celebrate Holy Days. I share His Word and His Spirit. And, yet. And, yet, when some people, especially family, think about those they know who are devout Christians, they point to the Mary’s they know. Not the Martha’s. Not me.
I get THAT, too. Sometimes I do that. And in the doing, I can sabotage my own self-image of what I should “look like” as a Christian woman.
“Jesus’ words to Martha are the words he wants to speak to your heart and mine: ‘You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.’ The ‘one thing’ is not found in doing more. It’s found by sitting as his feet.” — Joanna Weaver, Having A Mary Heart In A Martha World
I am a creature of habit. I get up at the same time every weekday morning. I’m out of the house and on the road towards work at precisely the same time (or darn near enough anyway). I say my rosary as I drive. I have also been known to spout off at drivers who cut me off, or do something equally as irritating, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee….&$@#*! What are you doing, Jerk!…oops, Sorry Lord….Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus…”
S#@t and prayer happens, sometimes simultaneously. *sigh*
Mary sat at His feet. She didn’t come up with witty responses. She didn’t scholar-speak. She engaged with her guest and listened. I believe Martha listened, too. Her listening just wasn’t as obvious as Mary’s to those around her. And I’m pretty sure neither sister spewed swear or slang words — ever.
Every Christian woman yearns to be Mary. We want others, especially family, to see us as good listeners to the Word of God. But like everything else in the world, people usually only see what is in front of them, or what others point out.
Most of the time though, we are Martha, and the only us others’ see is the one who is scurrying around and attempting to get everything, for everyone, done. Even if we share His Word — via social media, or snail mail, or texting, or speaking — everyone is so attune to “seeing” our Martha, that they overlook, or do not recognize, our Mary. Mary is there though. Mary is ALWAYS there.
“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer,” says Brother Lawrence, “and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”
Brother Lawrence gets it.
It’s easy to read Luke 10:41 and think that Jesus’ words to Martha were in reprimand. However, I don’t think so. I believe that Jesus was merely pointing out that each sister was called to serve and, at that time, Mary chose the right way to serve — for Mary — by listening to His Word. Perhaps Jesus already knew that Martha “got it,” and was therefore freed up to serve in a different, albeit more demanding, way. Perhaps He understood that although Martha couldn’t listen to the conversation at His Feet, she would nonetheless hear what was important.
At the same time, though, He wanted Martha to pick up on the hint that, next time, it will be your turn to choose between serving by doing, or serving by being.
When I observe another woman being Martha, flitting about in the busy-ness of serving by doing for others, I must remember that she is no less Christian than the Mary’s I observe who, perhaps, are more visibly noticeable as Christians in their reading of the Bible and sharing Scripture with us on Facebook, or via texting.
After all, “God’s transforming power in our lives is unleashed when we not only listen, but also act on what we’ve heard,” according to Joanna Weaver.
And, as a woman who finds herself serving more in the capacity of Martha on a daily basis, I need to take note — daily — to choose wisely in how I am called to serve at any particular moment. I need to be aware of when I need to “be still” in body and let my soul catch up “and know that” He “is God.”
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” — Psalm 51:10
So here’s to making Fridays and Mondays looking less like preparing for Christmas and New Year’s Day, and more like the rest- and joy-filled days that follow them where quietude resides.
At His feet.
Blessings, dear reader