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The Confession of a Recovering Martha

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

In Luke we have this familiar story:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he 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 the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Most of my life, I’ve not been all that wild about Mary, because I’m a Martha. I’m a doer. I like getting things done for the kingdom of God. I like organizing things, starting new ministries, teaching and leading.

Mary’s don’t seem all that interested in moving forward or pitching in with the work. They’re happy and thankful when you or other do it, but they are generally people, people. They hang out with people and they love quiet times of contemplation and Bible study. They’d rather “be,” than “do.”

Does Jesus favor Mary’s? If we read only this story, we’d walk away believing Jesus would prefer we all be Mary’s. I don’t believe that’s true. Jesus commanded his disciples to go get food while in Samaria, go out two by two to heal and cast out demons, go into Jerusalem to prepare a place to celebrate Passover and finally to go into all the world with the gospel. Clearly Martha activities. So which type of person does Jesus prefer? Both!

There are times Jesus calls us to be still and abide with him – perhaps hours or days alone with him to learn from him and just be. At other times he calls us to action and obedience.

Living out the Christian life is not a matter of “either/or.” In that moment Jesus was simply appreciative of Mary’s wanting to be with him. I can’t imagine Jesus at some point, not asking Mary to “do” something. But for that moment, he wished her to just be still and listen.

So, back to my confession that I’m a recovering Martha. My problem isn’t that I don’t appreciate the Mary’s around me. I do. It’s that I don’t seek out spending more times alone with Jesus, just “being.”

Ten years ago, I spent a week alone at a monastery in France, and in the past have taken a day or two a year alone to just praise and wait on God. And of course I start my day, almost every day, alone with God. But, as I reflect on my last 6-10 years, 99% of my time, outside of my morning devotions is spent “doing.” Writing this blog, the Holy Spirit convicted me that I need to set aside some blocks of time this year just to rest in Him. So what does that mean?

For me it will mean spending 3 or 4 days or half days alone just to pray and reflect on:

  1. Gratitude – what God has done for me and through me

  2. Praise – for who God is and what he is doing

  3. Self-examination – What sins or habits are hindering me from living out the will of god for my life?

  4. Expectation – God, what do you want of me? What character qualities do you expect of me that I’m not exercising?

  5. Finally, I believe the Mary Jesus wants me to be, is to sit quietly with people and listen more.

As a recovering Martha, I also need to be more appreciative of other Christians who don’t seem to get much done, but who are seriously in love with God and others. We used to joke that those people “were so heavenly minded, that they were no earthly good.” That’s a cruel joke. If someone is just flat out lazy, that’s a different issue. But if they are prayer warriors, quietly caring for others and tending to the care of their souls, I should be praising them and not arrogantly wishing they could be as “fruitful” as me. They may be more fruitful than me already.

How following Jesus works in real life.

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