“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 10:40-42
This passage has always bothered me a little. Probably because I identify much more strongly with Martha than Mary… I am GREAT at staying busy. Give me a to-do list and I’m a happy girl. I like knowing that I’m needed and am meeting a need, serving a desire or contributing something tangible. All those Type A gals out there know where I’m coming from. There’s a certain exhilaration that emerges when we look around at all the plates we’re spinning…especially when we’re spinning more than everyone else.
In a way, I get it honest. I have an extraordinary family, who all seem to excel at everything they do. And while there wasn’t a spoken expectation or pressure to fall in step and be the absolute best in everything…or at least to DO everything…I so wanted to please my family and everyone else, that I let busyness creep into my persona to the point where I hardly even acknowledged it or thought twice about it. I just did everything. That’s who I was. I found energy and direction in my endless tasks.
But ask me to sit still? To rest? Nooooooo! When I’m still, I can see things and hear things that I’d rather not. When at rest, my own heart and hurts and fears come out to play. And, pesky things, they vie convincingly for my attention. What I see, I don’t always like. More than that, when I really see myself—not my tasks—I have to entertain the notion that other people may be seeing this less-than-wonderful person as well. When I’m busy, I’m numb to that. And God knows it. God can see that I’m deriving my worth, many times, from my accomplishments. God knows that the more I do, the more self-sufficient I think I am…making me less dependent on Him.
I think that’s what God was getting at through this passage. Both sisters were focused. Both sisters were attentive and intentional. But only one had her attention fixed on the right subject. While Martha was busy being busy, Mary was at the feet of her Lord—learning, listening, growing. To be honest, there’s still a part of me that feels Martha’s indignation. After all, people needed to eat and a clean house to stay in… She was making it all happen. And if I were flitting around while my sister sat doing (apparently) nothing, I’d probably want someone to say something on my behalf too.
But here we see, perhaps as clearly anywhere else in scripture, how very different God’s priorities are from our own. His priority isn’t what we produce or accomplish. He’s much more interested in the time we spend getting to know Him. Because to know Him is to love Him. God wants our love…not our lists. He wants us to experience every bit of life—joy, pain, loss, victory—in its fullness; not as a numb afterthought.
As I’m writing these words, I do so with trepidation because this is not something that I have mastered. I’m still much more comfortable being busy. And I’m still afraid sometimes to sit still long enough to see all of me… But that’s when I try to remember Mary. God didn’t think she was lazy or unaccomplished. He knew that in her stillness, she was loving Him. And despite her best intentions, Martha was too busy to focus on her Lord.
What about you? Is it easier, more comfortable for you to stay busy? Does being still make you nervous? I dare you to create a time—yes, actually schedule it—to be still. Cancel your appointments or obligations for an hour a week (for starters)…pick a quiet spot, turn off your phone and just be with your Lord. It may feel awkward or make you uneasy, but the rewards will be great. I dare you to lay down your Martha. Take up your Mary.
- Do you stay busy for the sake of staying busy?
- When is the last time you took a long look at the woman in the mirror? How well do you know her?
- Do you trust God with the time you give Him?