It has been a while since I’ve written a blog, and rather than ignoring that fact (or worse, making excuses), I thought I would consider its implications. The fact is that I have been busy. Between work and being available for two young children, I have not found much time for reflection (or writing). I cannot tell you the last time I read, or even took a substantial amount of time to sit in silence and pray. It is not that I wouldn’t love to do these things; it is just that I have a difficult time finding the time. This is a struggle we all face to varying degrees, and it was no different in Jesus’s time.
“38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him 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.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
I was prepared to delve into this passage. I was going to discuss the teaching in light of vocation, Jesus’s other teachings, and do my best impersonation of a really smart theological scholar. But, just as I was ready to really flex my writing muscles, my two year old started crying. He was finished eating dinner, and he wanted to get out of his high chair to play before he took his bath and went to bed. I tried to ignore him for as long as possible so as to focus on this important task of weaving together a masterpiece of revelatory analysis I would surely craft within fifteen minutes. But, my two-year-old was too persistent, and I gave up. I took him out of his high chair and set him down, and he ran over to play with his puzzle. As I watched him a moment, it struck me. I was being Martha as I sat at my laptop in my self-importance rather than going over and playing with my son. Maybe that was exactly the point Jesus was making.
So, I gave my thesis a rest and got on the ground with my son. I gave him a few “neigh” rides (“horseback” rides on my back). I tickled him a bit. We said, “good night” to his little brother, and then Tripp started hitting some rocket shots off his tee with his Fisher Price baseball bat, all as I delightedly snapped photos and video with my phone, which he loved (we’ll work on his vanity another day). After about an hour, it was time for him to take his bath and go to bed, and I returned to my laptop with a refreshed perspective.
I hadn’t cracked open my Bible, said a prayer, or reflected on Jesus and the beautiful and perfect sacrifice He made for me. Rather, for that small moment, I tried to live by His greatest commandments: to love God with all my heart and to love my neighbor as myself. Jesus did say all the law and prophets hang on these two things. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Perhaps that is the bigger picture about Martha and Mary. It was not what they were doing, but how they were doing it. Martha’s failure was not in serving her guests and being a good host, but in failing to be a gracious one. Her failure was not in working, but in working with resentment toward her sister. Contrarily, Mary’s success wasn’t in sitting and listening to Jesus’s word alone, but in being in a relationship of love with Him. That is an attitude that doesn’t have to be exclusive to private prayer or church service. That is a disposition that can and should be carried into each and every daily activity or interaction we have, no matter how busy we are with life’s entanglements. That is how we are “the light of the world” and one way we can “shine our light before others.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Don’t mistake me as saying this is all we need to do. Prayer and study is how we can craft our conscience and build our relationship of love. Rather, the point is that with an open heart focused on God, we can transform the mundane necessities of daily living into a service to and communion with God. If we are mindful, we can see the Mary in every Martha moment.