"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he 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 few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:38-42
I love this story of two sisters who are getting ready for a big feast, honoring Jesus. As is often the case, these two sisters are as different as any two people can be.
One is the planner, the cleaner, the preparer, the doer. Martha is busy getting ready for a huge party and is running around, ala Martha Stewart to make everything perfect in her house for a VIP.
Mary is the student, the listener, one who can stay in the moment. She's sitting at the feet of her Lord, listening.
Martha, as an older sister might be known to do, gets angry that her little sister is doing nothing, and just SITTING there with the guest when there's a lot of THINGS NEED TO BE DONE. So she kind of blows her lid at Mary and even asks Jesus if he doesn't care that poor, poor Martha has been left all alone to do all of the WORK.
And Jesus' response is interesting (as his responses always are). "You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
The doer in me wants others to be praised for all that hard work, and at first can't comprehend why Martha isn't commended for her dutiful ways. (And yes, I'm an older sister). Instead, Jesus commends Mary for listening, for being present, at the feet of her Lord.
If we take this lesson and look at our lives, what is the message of balance, and of choices? It seems that Jesus is saying that there will always be plenty of busy work to be done, dishes to be cleaned, clothes to be put away, but really, there are only a few fleeting moments that present themselves each day when we can be truly present with the people who are important in our lives.
That choosing to take time and even make time for those moments, to spend time with Him and our family and the "guests" in our lives is more important than all the doing it takes to get ready to receive that guest. And it's only by intentionally setting aside the time for our relationships, with God, with Jesus, with each other, that we begin to find out what what is really important to us, and to them. Relationships take work. I like to think that in Luke, Jesus is imploring us to take time for relationships, with each other, and with Him, and is stating that we should value those relationships over the other distracting things of this life.
When the party is over, and the guests go home, and we think about the evening, it's the shared moments that stand out. We remember how mom played the tambourine and marched down the hall with our son and his cousins, while dad played backup kazoo. Sometimes it takes reminding ourselves to delight in the moments shared, the laughs, and the hugs, in pulling ourselves out of all of the "Doing" and let the human "Being" part take over. That's the challenge in balance.
And that is why, before family events, or any event, as I'm standing staring in the cupboard, or hiding one last pile of important papers in the garage so the house looks tidier, I often hear a faint whisper in my ear of "More Mary, Less Martha..." and I have to smile.
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