Nobody Brags About Being Mary
I have a love / hate relationship with Luke 10.
If you know the latter part of that chapter, then you’re familiar with the story of Mary and Martha, two sisters who counted Jesus as a friend and hosted him at their home. In the story, Martha is busy. Efficient. On task. She spent the day vacuuming the rug, dusting the mantel, changing the sheets, and preparing the meal. When company arrived, she remained busy: stirring the sauces, checking the rolls, keeping an eye on the ice bucket, rolling her eyes as Peter propped his dirty sandals on the coffee table again.
And then there was Mary: hanging out in the living room. Hanging on to every word that Jesus said. Soaking. Resting. Absorbing.
Martha was all about “do.” Mary just wanted to “be.” I don’t know about you, but I identify with Martha 103 out of 100 times. Doing gives me identity. Doing keeps me busy. Doing gets recognition and praise and gives me bragging rights.
“How are you these days?”
“Oh man, just busy. Things are crazy right now. Lots of stuff happening.” (This may or may not be a direct quote from 80% of my conversations since I hit adulthood.)
It’s easy to brag about being Martha. We check things off the list and charge ahead with projects and get stuff done. Marthas generally feel accomplished all while feeling harried. Marthas can point to what they’re doing as a sign of how worthy they are.
But in Luke 10:41-42, Jesus bursts Martha’s “Just do it” bubble:
“Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
It’s easy to brag about being Martha. Not so much about being Mary.
“How are you these days?”
“Oh man, so good. I just sit at the feet of Jesus all day. I soak in his teachings. I listen to everything that comes out of his mouth. While the pots and pans are clattering in the kitchen, his voice is resting in my heart. I am hashtag blessed.”
See? The Marthas of the world just read that and muttered something about you ridiculously lazy rascal underneath our collective breath. While we understand the importance of sitting and resting, it’s hard to tell people that that’s what we’re focusing on. When people say “I had a really slow morning with a really long quiet time,” Marthas translate that into “I didn’t feel like getting out of bed and I have trouble managing my life.”
As a natural born Martha, I have come to recognize that being a Mary isn’t something I apologize for, it’s something I seek. My Maryness isn’t a character flaw to be eradicated, it’s a trait to be cultivated. I rarely have to fight to be a Martha. But man, do I ever have to carve out time to be Mary.
Maybe being a Mary doesn’t give you bragging rights, but in Jesus’ upside-down economy, he says that taking time to be a Mary is what really matters.
How’s your Mary?
Your missing a huge piece of that story though. Martha was discontent and asked Jesus to tell Mary to start working. You can make lists be organized and do work and still be soaking at the feet of Jesus. The story is about a heart issue not a slam in being busy/not working focusing on Jesus.
Hilary, that’s a great point. I didn’t mean to infer that Type A people are not close to Jesus. I would hasten to say that the Apostle Paul was one of the most driven leaders of the early church. Even Jesus himself seemed to do an extraordinary amount of ministry in his 3.5 years.
The catch is that we often view busyness as more important than rest, when there must be a balance. We can “work heartily as unto the Lord” as long as we are drawing near to Jesus so that he can “give us rest.” They’re two sides of the same coin. One is not greater than the other, but often we revel in our busyness more than we do our rest.
Thanks for the comment!
I wouldn’t be ashamed to be called “Mary”. Unfortunately, I find myself being a Martha too often. It’s not something I’m proud of and I don’t know how to say no and slow down.