Are you familiar with the Martha and Mary story? Mary sat and listened to Jesus and stayed by his side while Martha slaved away preparing the food in the kitchen. When Martha chastised Mary for not helping Jesus responded: “Martha, Martha…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.”
The other day I was thinking about a future event and how I had all this to do to prepare for it- I was overwhelmed. And, as I was sitting there (somewhat bitterly) stressing over it all, I realized I was Martha. I wanted to chastise people into helping me (mind you, I enjoy taking things on, I enjoy planning, I enjoy creating- I took the task willingly and joyfully- in fact, I’d go so far as to say I asked for it- and truth be told, I never did like group assignments for a reason). Then, why do these thoughts creep in?
Because, sometimes, I am Martha. I am not so much wanting to take Mary’s place as I am concerned why I’m not being joined in the work. When, indeed, someone needs to do the work and it is not the best choice for everyone. Martha does not ask Mary to take a turn in the kitchen so she can be close to Jesus. Instead, she asks “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
I yearn to be a Mary. I think that should be a goal for all of us. To be happy to sit at the feet of Jesus and just listen. But, let me be clear, I don’t like to sit. I try to listen but even that can be hard (I don’t know about you but I like to talk…too much sometimes). I find myself not asking my husband to make dinner so I can play a game with the kids but rather, a bitter “why am I making the food, while you snuggle the baby? Why aren’t you setting the table or getting the children drinks?”
Recognizing the value in his choice (sometimes not such a choice- someone needs to hold the baby during dinner because clearly dinner time is prime “hold me hold me hold me” time according to my children- is that just us?) and asking to share in that would be much more productive than the whining “why aren’t you helping me???” And, you know what? My husband shares in the work. He does the dishes after dinner. He plays with the kids. He changes diapers. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t ever look at me and say “why are you holding the baby while I’m doing the dishes?”
I chose this job. Here’s where you’re going to think I’m crazy but- I enjoy doing the laundry and cleaning the bathroom and making dinner. I love the way my home looks when I’ve shined the floors and each shirt is folded into a perfect little konmari approved square in my closet. I like to load the dishwasher the proper way (yeah I’m the person who reloads it after someone else fills it). Confession here, I’d rather vacuum than play candy land for the 20th time. What then causes the occasional bitter thought?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my sinful nature. One of my faults. I don’t want to feel that way (and I don’t always, or even for long when I do). I want to take on every task with a joyful heart without any question to mar it. Sometimes, though, I’m tired. So tired. Sometimes, I’m anxious. Sometimes, I’m struggling with my feelings (am I loved? Am I appreciated? Am I overlooked or treated unjustly?). I’m working on it and will continue to.
In the end, not only did the aforementioned event turn out perfectly, but I was warmly thanked. My family rallied together to create a beautiful party and each person used their own talents to make the day special. The decorations and food were applauded by all. The birthday girl was properly celebrated (not only with the food and decor, but with carefully crafted toasts, a letter campaign, and a fun game complete with yummy prizes for all the children- and me because, you know, I totally killed at bingo). The weekend was made extra special by a visit from a far away sibling and some of his wonderful children. Everyone came together, everyone pitched in. And, maybe I was more of a Martha for the weekend- running around getting things done. And, less of a Mary, sitting and visiting and keeping the Birthday girl company. But, really, that was okay.
Though Jesus admonished Martha, sometimes we need someone to clean the dishes and make the dinner. I think here’s the key and part of what Jesus meant when he said Mary had made the better choice. That whatever we do, whether it’s sitting and visiting or clearing the table, do it with a cheerful, happy heart. Do it willingly, happily, and without bitterness. And, then you too, can be Mary- whatever your calling and talents may be.
Side note: everyone pitched in with the clean up and I didn’t have to put away a single morsel of food (not that that surprises anyone- my family will attest to the fact that I much prefer to bring the food to the gathering than do the dishes:).
Headband: Hobby Lobby, similar
Bracelet: vintage, similar (note: I lost one of the “stones” out of my bracelet that day- so sad- I’m on the hunt but I’m afraid I’ll never be able to replace this $6 find- keep your eyes out my friends- you never know when you’re going to find something special!)