You’ve probably heard the story of Martha and Mary from the Bible, Luke 10:38-42:
“As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need only of one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
I always smile when I hear this reading, mostly because I identify with it so well. I’ve always been a total Martha.
Martha is scurrying around getting dinner ready for an extremely important guest, Jesus. And there sits her lazy sister Mary, not helping!
Me: “I know Martha, can you believe Mary is just sitting there on her butt not even helping!? How dare she!? Doesn’t she know who your guest is?”
Are you a Martha?
A Martha of today seems like a type-A personality who thinks, “I can do it better myself, but you better at least offer to help.” A Martha of today is always on the move, because everything has to be perfect, organized, timely, and neat, and it needs to be like that NOW, or even better yesterday.
Yep, that pretty much describes me or at least described me before becoming a wife and a mother. I’m not sure you can be the best wife and mother if you are a full-on Martha. I think it took my husband an entire year to get me to believe the dirty dishes would actually wait for me and that it was more important to cuddle together in front of the television. Now, seven years into our marriage, I still really like to get the dishes done right away, but there are several times a month when the pile gets so high, I have to leave huge hints asking my husband when he thinks the “dish fairies” will come. The dirty dish piles would have previously given me insta-migraines, but now, dirty dishes represent me choosing my family first. Score one for Mary.
Maybe it’s because I spent several years during high school and college as a waitress (or maybe it’s just because my Martha blood runs deep), but I’m obsessed with quality customer service and I get offended and annoyed when it’s less than stellar. So, I identify with the fact that Martha is, “burdened with much serving.” When my husband and I host parties, I am always the one gliding around the room, taking drink orders, removing dirty dishes and happily chiming in to dozens of one minute conversations. I know that is so Martha, but that is just how I serve people; I want everyone to enjoy themselves and have everything they need. Score one for Martha.
In Luke’s gospel, Martha’s sister Mary, is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him speak. Can’t you just picture Mary? She is sitting peacefully at the feet of the Lord, knees hugged to chest with excitement, totally enthralled and taken in by whatever Jesus is saying, totally oblivious to her sister running around like a chicken with her head cut off.
Me: “Mary, clearly you do know who your guest is, because you are giving him your full, uninterrupted attention. You have ‘chosen the better part,’ and I strive to be more like you.
Are you a Mary?
A Mary of today is a more laid-back, go with the flow type of gal, not because she is flighty, but because she trusts in the Lord’s plan for her life. A Mary of today is a good listener, a good friend, and someone who takes time to enjoy the simple things in life.
Have you ever been cut-off by someone while driving? You are in a total rage as you pull up next to the cutter-offer at the next stop light. You peer into their car at the person behind the wheel that dared to cut you off. You expect to receive an “I’m sorry” wave or to at least see someone who is clearly embarrassed by their clumsy driving. Nope. All you see is the cutter-offer happily smiling, looking forward, totally oblivious to the fact that they just nearly caused a multi-car collision.
That’s how I think of Mary in this story, minus the parts where you are super mad at her and where she could have seriously injured someone. Mary’s full focus is on Jesus. She doesn’t mean to ignore that her sister needs help serving; she is just so totally absorbed in what Jesus is saying. There is something really beautiful about that. Don’t you wish you took more time to be totally absorbed in what really matters in your life?
In our house, “A-BU-GEE Mommy,” can be translated to, “Help me please Mommy.” When I hear my little ones calling this out, I’ve learned to drop what I’m doing and flee to their aid. I’ve noticed our best days together are the days I put down my smartphone and give them my total attention. The days that they are “super naughty” tend to be days that I have been multi-tasking (or just days they are teething like crazy). When I take extra time to be loving and thoughtful towards my husband, the thoughtfulness is always returned (the simple things mean a lot, making him a sandwich for lunch, sending him a text with photos of the boys, etc). Major score for Mary.
Are you a Marthary?
Luckily, if you are a full-on Martha, you can learn more Mary ways. If you are all Mary, you can learn how to get your Martha on.
Personally, I will always have a little bit of both Martha and Mary in me. I strive to be like Mary; I want to listen and be fully present to my family. BUT let’s face it, Jesus wouldn’t have had a hot meal that night had Martha not been around. Just sayin’! So, I guess that makes me a Marthary.
My prayer for us as parents:
“Martha, burdened with much serving…”
Lord, please help us to see the service we provide our family and friends, not as a burden, but as a gift we are giving to the ones we love most.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”
Lord, please wash away our anxieties and worries; help us instead focus on you and trust in your plan for our lives.
“There is need only of one thing.”
Lord, please help us readjust our priorities, help us listen, and focus on only what pleases you.
“Mary has chosen the better part.”
Lord, please help us choose you first; help us focus on our loved ones and the people in most need of our love.