I am going to admit it. I am a Martha. I tend to make myself busy in any situation. I find tasks for distraction during crises. I volunteer to be a worker for most gatherings or events to avoid the socially awkwardness I never quite grew out of from middle school. When given tasks, I want to complete them as soon as possible and move on the next one. But in the past few years, since my last child was born, I have somewhat stepped back from all of this “doing.”
Almost all of my responsibilities solely revolve around my household. I am a stay-at-home mom of four. We run our business out of our home, so my work is at our home computer in our home office. I help with a Marine Reunion group that is national, so all of that work is out of our home. Essentially, I have become a homebody. I have a newfound empathy for agoraphobics.
Spending so much time behind the same walls constantly has made me acutely aware of some things. The dishes are never done. The laundry is never done. The trash cans are never empty. The house is never completely clean. At least not for more than an hour before it all starts over again.
How can one be task oriented when the tasks never end? Where is the satisfaction of completion? When do we see any finished results that we can sit back and enjoy? This life is like a carnival carousel sans the fanfare of horses, lights, and music.
In the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Jesus has come to visit their home. Martha has become frustrated with Mary, who had chosen to sit at His feet and listen to what He had to say. When Martha calls to Mary to come help with the preparations and entreats Jesus to intercede on her behalf, Jesus tells Martha “Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
When I first heard the parable of Martha and Mary, I felt frustration at Jesus’ response. Why does Jesus seem to praise Mary and admonish Martha? I understood His point that Mary needed Jesus and was doing what she needed. However, Martha was doing the work that needed to be done. The work that made it possible for Mary to sit at the hand of Christ and worship Him. After all, we all know those Marys who “Mary” just a bit too much. Why did Jesus make this all about Mary and not thank Martha for her efforts?
But in my recent revelation about the dishes, I went back and reread the full story in the Bible. I had somehow missed the part where Jesus states “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.”
Jesus wasn’t making His message be about how Mary was the “right” one. He wasn’t admonishing Martha. He was encouraging Martha to step off of the carousel.
We still need to attend to our daily tasks. No, the dishes never will be done. Nonetheless, when we need Jesus, when He is speaking to us, the only thing we need to do is sit and listen.