I had a conversation with a friend a while back about spending time with Jesus, and one of the things she said got me to thinking.
“You’re more of a Mary, and I’m a Martha.”
We very much like to categorize ourselves in this day and age. From ISFP, extrovert, type A, phlegmatic, wall flower, all of the way to “What ice cream are you?” or “Which Bible character are you?” we are encouraged to establish a solid identity, our own little niche of belonging in a chaotic world. Those boxes often make us second guess any actions or decisions that would take us outside of our own identities. When it comes to our relationships with the Lord, that cookie cutter identity can be crippling.
When my friend told me that I was a Mary, I had to laugh on the inside. She is very outspoken, while I could sit for an hour looking at a piece of grass. She manages to juggle a dozen different tasks at the same time as nurturing half a dozen different people through their fears, joys, and anxieties, all within the span of ten minutes. I work best with one thing at a time, and can get so focused that I will sometimes not even hear what people are saying around me until my job is done. From the outside, that might seem like the perfect recipe for sitting at Jesus feet, but being still and listening are not things that come naturally to me.
My mind runs a mile a minute, so it isn’t uncommon for my prayers to become chatter sessions, telling the Lord everything I have planned, and when I think things are taking too long to happen. I have to laugh at myself when He reminds me to listen, and instead I go down a list and ask Him about all of the things I think He might have to say. In short, I am very much a Martha.
Realistically, we all face the same struggle Martha did. When Luke begins this story (Luke 10:38), he says that Martha was the one who welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her home. Martha had a brother named Lazarus as well as her sister Mary, but it seems that she was the one who took the initiative to invite Jesus into their home. That is is where we all know to start, and it is certainly nothing to sneeze at! Martha knew that there would be nothing more important in her life than having Jesus come into her house. Hospitality was (and still is) vitally important in their culture, and she was ready to give all of the resources, strength, and time she had to make sure that the Teacher and His friends would remember the welcome she had given them.
Now, Martha was no Pharisee or Sadducee. Her focus wasn’t on whether or not she would look impressive enough. Her focus was on hospitality and doing good for others. Along with Jesus and the twelve primary disciples, who knows how much of a crowd was following Jesus that day? She wasn’t about to let any of them go hungry. So where did she get distracted?
The story of Mary and Martha takes place in Luke chapter ten. If we go back just one chapter, Luke nine gives us the account of Jesus feeding five thousand men, in addition to women and children. Now He is back in Bethany, and here is Martha, stretching herself thin trying to feed one household when the Bread of Life is there sitting in the next room.
Martha does seem like a go-getter in this passage, but fears apply to all of us at one point or another. She feels the pressure of wanting to do her job well. She wants to bring comfort and rest to the lives of others. She hates to think of anyone slipping through the cracks on her watch. She gets so lonely in all of her cares and responsibilities, that she gets upset with the Lord for not easing her burden by having her sister help.
It’s not that Mary was more into feeling and Martha was more into doing. All of Martha’s worries are addressed at the feet of Jesus. It can be so easy for us to imagine that He has overlooked us with His help, and to say “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?” Not one person was overlooked when Jesus fed the people in the wilderness, even though the disciples had no money to feed them. When we place the burden of success on our own shoulders, that is when our stress levels skyrocket, and things start falling apart, whether we’re juggling caring for a family and coordinating a dinner, or just trying to get through our paperwork. Meanwhile, Jesus is patiently waiting, calling each of us by name. It is hard to give up control to the Lord, “but only one thing is necessary.” And when we seek first that one thing, all of our needs will be met, and we will find that Jesus provides more fruitfulness to His ministries than we could ever hope to do on our own.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:6,7
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Martha, Martha. Won’t you taste and see that He is good?