"Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” - Luke 10: 38-42
I am Martha: resentful of Mary, annoyed by Jesus. Overwhelmed by the work of managing a home and a family. And on top of that, reprimanded & put in my place - at least, that's how it feels at first. Anger bubbles up inside me, if I don't serve, no one will, and you will all be grumbling against me. Am I supposed to let the ants take over the kitchen? Am I supposed to leave the laundry to fold itself?
But I see Mary as she sits at the feet of Jesus and I don't understand but I'm drawn to them.
I am Mary, or at least I wish I was. I’m supposed to be, right? Sitting at the feet of my Lord, losing sight of everything around me, focused in adoration. I would so love to be at adoration now, I think to myself. Am I allowed to bring noisy children to adoration? I wonder.
But the dryer is buzzing, calling for me. The baby is stirring in his crib, calling for me, too. And if he isn’t now, he will be in ten minutes. There is work to be done. This work is never ending.
And you tell me, I need to be both Mary and Martha. Okay, let me just add that to my to-do list, I snap. I am bitter, I am worn, I am drowning, I can’t do everything.
Mary is peaceful, discerning, contemplative -- she has made herself available to our Lord and is focused wholly on listening to Him.
Martha is caring, hardworking, hospitable -- she is tending to the needs of those around her and is focused wholly on caring for them.
So I put those two together and I know: you want me to be calm and loving, hospitable and compassionate, mentally available to embrace God’s will and physically available to care for others.
In these two sisters, we find the purpose of Christian life.
They have both given of themselves wholly, something I am learning is necessary in our walks as Christians. It isn’t enough to tell God I want to live in love and walk with Him, I have to actually get up and take my first steps.
There are many moments of my life that are intentionally wasted and I am left surrounded by this feeling of restlessness, overwhelmed exhaustion -- it stems from these moments. I have wasted hours of my life scrolling aimlessly around social media while my children have sat in front of me asking for attention, and accepting the reality of that stings. I am thankful our God is loving and forgiving and I don’t have to live in guilt, but instead I can start again - each moment of each day.
But oh, this balance is so tricky. Because I would so love to spend this entire day reading and writing and reflecting on God’s word but I also know, my children will be awake from their naps soon and they will need dinner and my husband will need his shirts ironed and a million other things will need to be done. And I know if I spend all of nap time doing every single mama chore, I will be exhausted before dinner and running on empty spiritually and emotionally.
But as we reflect on the lives of these two women - both of whom we recognize as saints - may we continually strive for the balance we can find by surrendering to God’s perfect will and wholly embracing our vocations.
These two sisters are honored within a week of one another in the Catholic Church, St. Mary Magdalene on July 22 & St. Martha on July 29. (Whether Mary Magdalene is the same Mary as mentioned in this passage has been debated but even if they are two different women, we can honor them on the same day and I highly doubt anyone will mind. I can't imagine anyone in heaven bickering over feast days, can you?)