Image by farhad pocha via FlickrDo you remember the story of Mary and Martha? Most of us find ourselves in Martha's shoes, especially during the holidays. We are quick to laugh when someone accuses us of being a Martha because what we really believe is that Martha is the better woman, right? In the story from the book of Luke 10:38-42 we read:
As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, they came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
I have always identified with Martha in this story. After all, preparations did have to be made. She had at least 15 hungry people sitting in her home waiting for dinner. If you had 15 unexpected dinner guests, no doubt you would turn on the overdrive and work like crazy so our guests wouldn't be famished, true? Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Martha also sat at Jesus's feet all evening and listened like Mary did? I think Jesus would have had to do another miracle called the feeding of the 15!"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
So why would Jesus tell Martha that Mary had chosen what was better? Those of us who are Type A, high strung, get it done, solve the problem type people, shake our heads at the kind of person who can sit and seemingly do nothing while letting others carry the work load.
Jesus said, "Martha, Martha you are worried and upset about many things." Isn't it interesting that Jesus didn't say, "I understand, Martha, you are right. Mary will help you in just a moment"? No, He told Martha that she was worried and upset. I'm sure her worrisome and angry attitude was a pattern in her life and Jesus was trying to make a point to all of us who struggle with the emotions of anger and worry when we feel we are carrying an unfair amount of the burden. When the workload has become one-sided and the people who should be helping us are not.
There are times in our lives when we encounter a season or two where the weight of a relationship or responsibility is on our shoulders, especially in marriage. Spouses get sick, struggle with depression or addiction, work too much, work too little, lose their job, start a new business or are away from home for an extended time. The weight shifts to us and we find ourselves saying, "Lord, tell him to help me!"
Now, I don't think Jesus was saying to Martha that it was okay for Mary not to help with the preparations, but what he was saying was that spending time sitting in His presence was the best choice. When we find ourselves carrying a weight larger than we bargained for, Jesus is saying (my paraphrase),"My child, you are worried and upset about many things. Come and sit at my feet. Come to me so that I can give you a chance to rest."
Come to me you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light. (Matt 11:28-30)Martha was trying so hard not to be upset and not to get angry, but finally she cried out, "Lord, don't you care? Don't you care that I've been left to do all the work in this one-sided relationship?" (my paraphrase)
This is the prayer I found myself crying when my husband was so depressed he couldn't get out of bed, work a steady job or be involved with family life. I was left to take care of the children, go to work, do all the cooking, laundry, yard work, etc. I cried, "Lord don't you care that my husband has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell him to help me!"
After my long journey with anger, fear and self-pity tucked securely in my backpack, I found myself in a very lonely and desolate place and the only person there was Jesus, beckoning me to come and sit at his feet and let Him lighten my load. I know that sounds cliche', but don't misunderstand, He isn't saying He is going to take away all of your problems. But something beautiful happens when you sit down in that sacred place (like at the kitchen table), Bible in hand, and let God pour his comfort and healing balm into your soul. Your perspective will be changed and your strength will be renewed. Every day when we come to that sacred place, we find Him there with his right hand stretched out and he places His fingers under our chin and lifts up our head to see Him who is our help.
Jesus said, "Martha, only one thing is needed..." What is that one thing? It's time in His presence. It seems so simple, but when there is so much to be done, who has time for that? One January, I made a New Year's resolution that I was going to get up one half hour earlier to spend time with God. God so honored our time together and that beautiful thing happened....the comfort and healing balm was poured into my soul. That is what can never be taken away from me. If you find yourself carrying more of the load than you bargained for, if you are more a Martha than a Mary, take God up on His word:
But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Psalm 3:3.