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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

Rest: being Mary in a world of Marthas

Life doesn’t always make sense. We ask for one thing and really want another. We tell our kids grades don’t matter and what matters most is that they learned everything they could, yet the first question we often ask as they come home from taking the test is “What grade did you get?” Our communication doesn’t always match what our mouth says. What we say we believe isn’t always what we actually believe. Often they are two entirely different things.

Recently I was in a group of people discussing the story of Mary and Martha in Scripture. Two lovely sisters, both beloved by the Son of God. The particular story being discussed was the one where Martha was busy working and Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha criticizes Mary to Jesus, and Jesus tells her that Mary has made the good choice. Because of this story, Martha is often thought of negatively. To be fair, when their brother Lazarus dies and is raised from the dead, I would want to be more like Martha in the story and less like Mary; but I digress. For the sake of this article, we will narrow what we know of Mary and Martha to Martha being the busy one and Mary being the one sitting at the feet of Jesus simply wanting to know her Savior more.

As I sat in this group of people, several mentioned that they were like Martha. “I am a Martha,” they said. The fascinating thing about people “confessing” this in America is that it is as often said with pride as with contrition. There seems to be an underlying current to the confession, an unspoken addendum, which says, “…and you ought to see how much I can get done!”

I was silent because I wasn’t a Martha, and frankly I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone saying, “I am a Mary.” I have a friend named Mary, so I have heard her say things like, “Hi, my name is Mary, and I am calling about…”; but I haven’t ever heard of anyone confessing to being more like Mary than Martha in this story. So I didn’t say anything. What was I going to say? “I am the good character in this story. I have never heard of anyone else confessing to this, but I have arrived!”

In the next few days, I pondered the awkwardness of my situation. Since I have been a “Mary”, life has given me some pretty hard knocks. Things have happened to me that can only be described as flat-out attacks of satan. In my pondering, I had a revelation. No wonder I felt so criticized! I was “Mary” in a world which celebrates Martha and is full of people who confess to being like her. Even in the Bible story, Martha criticizes Mary to Jesus. Why wouldn’t people criticize me?

Honestly, it comes in all ways, shapes and forms. Some people simply say, “Get up!” The idea that you are crying out in pain seeking healing becomes irritating to them instead of a sign that you simply need to be ushered into the presence of Jesus. I heard the story of Bartimaeus today. Jesus sent the people who had rebuked him and silenced his cries for help to bring Bartimaeus to Him for healing. They were asked to undo what they had done. “Come, the Master is calling you.”

Other people ask you what your next step is until they are blue in the face and you are weary of hearing the phrase. Isn’t it enough that I follow Him every day? Isn’t it enough that He has radically changed me from the inside out? Isn’t it enough that I consistently challenge myself more and more to discover what it means to be a part of the family of God?

Other criticism is more subtle. “That’s okay for you, but not for me.” “I understand that you can spend that time with God or sacrifice that income, but I can’t.” “I realize what the Bible says, but it can’t actually mean that for this day and age.”

Then there are the people who are envious. They say things similar to the ones who actually love to be busy in the above paragraph. “I would love to live like you do, but I can’t. I have to…” Then they begin to list a long list of things that I had to give up to live like I do. All the idols that I cried so hard over as I gave them up are listed. I wish I could convince these people that they can, but I can’t. Nothing I can do will convince this group of people that Jesus is for real and materialism and the American dream are a devastating, fruitless disappointment.

It’s hard to be Mary in a world of Marthas, but it is so worth it. When I sit in His presence and allow Him to clean the inside of the cup, then the outside also will be clean.

It is not likely that I will ever be celebrated for being Mary, but I don’t want to go one moment for the rest of my life without experiencing His presence. Though the world will never celebrate me for sitting, and the church isn’t likely to either, may I at least live life seeking Him deeply and knowing Him deeply as I learn to truly love my neighbor – not with busyness but with an open vulnerable heart which can only be opened in His presence.

Are you too busy to seek Him? Do you seek to calm anxiety with busyness or by quietly sitting in His presence seeking to know His heart more?


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