I have been torn about the Mary and Martha story for some time. I have been a Martha most of my life: head strong, determined, focused on the end result. If I saw a cause or need, I would throw myself into making it beautiful, meaningful and well received.
But I missed the joy of the actual event because I wanted someone else to experience it—to see something or feel something.
I thought God made me a Martha.
As the Bible story goes, while Jesus is in Mary and Martha’s home, Martha is too preoccupied with what needs to be done to enjoy his company and bask in his love.
“But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to [Jesus] and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’
“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’” Luke 10:40-42
I missed the boat
Man, I sure did miss the boat for many years. I made sure the kitchen was spotless, the laundry done, the flowers without weeds. And what did I miss because of that? Memories and moments with friends and family that I can’t get back.
If you’re always focused on the presentation, you miss the message.
Mary got it. For her, it was impossible not to sit in awe at Jesus’ feet. I get it now, after some hard lessons. I thank God it’s not too late. I now recognize God’s love everywhere.
I can see the love of God in the red rocks of Colorado and the words of a homeless man. I feel the power of God’s strength in rain drops on my tent and small acts of kindness. God controls and connects and protects everything, and I am in awe.
My home is no longer spotless. I no longer hover over my guests or family, eating separately. I dine with them and talk with them and pray with them. I finish the dishes after the guests have gone.
I am making memories and building relationships. God needs both Marthas and Marys to sit at God’s feet, absorbing God’s love, enjoying God’s company and learning to share this with others.
Sara Larson, a member of First Lutheran Church, Marshall, Minn., is serving her first term on the Women of the ELCA executive board.
Photo: Adriaenssen, Vincent, 1595-1675. Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.