You’ve probably heard the story of Mary and Martha before. Possibly many, many times. You’ve heard the warnings about keeping your priorities straight, not missing the moments that are in front of you. We are told to be Mary and not Martha. We are told not to work so hard, even for the Kingdom, that you lose sight of the real treasure of Jesus.
If you have taken part in The Well Practice then you know this story well. I remember reading it and feeling like I was reading an entirely new story. I had a major “ahhhh” moment and new lessons started to click for me.
At the time, I had a little one at home and was feeling torn between spending time with her playing and getting all the stuff done around the house that had fallen to the wayside since she was born. I had read all the articles and encouragement about soaking in these precious moments because they fly by, but never did they mention the guilt of leaving things undone. Leaving the mess, leaving the dishes, not folding the laundry. I would choose to spend the time being present with my daughter but was often distracted and guilt-ridden about my choice.
When I read the story now, months later, weeks away from having my second baby, I feel like God is trying to remind me of the same lesson. Do you ever feel like He is having to teach you the same thing over and over, because apparently, you didn’t really get it the first or fifth time?
You see, my to-do list to prepare for my second baby is about as long as a lineup at Disneyland. I feel torn between checking things off this list and really soaking in these last moments with my firstborn. I know these days are numbered. These moments of it being just her and me. But what I often forget is that these are the last days with me for HER too, she just doesn’t know it. She doesn’t know how much her world is going to change and I feel like it’s my responsibility to respect that and give her as much of this precious time as I can.
I would much rather make memories these final weeks as a family of 3, sitting on the floor with her, going for adventures, just sitting and watching her explore the world, and really seeing her. Watching her concentration as she tries something new, to watch her fingers pinch together and grasp objects that used to be far too small for her, and her brain race as she tries to solve problems on her own.
I have to set up the car seat, pack my hospital bag, take out the newborn clothes, get diapers, prep my postpartum kit, fill my freezer, have instructions and a plan ready for my daughter’s care.
When I read the story of Mary and Martha a couple of things stand out to me that may be new to you as well.
Martha is doing everything she should be doing. The other men (and women) around her would have seen her work, not as a distraction, but as her upholding her duty. If she was me, she would be meal prepping, washing, folding, and organizing the baby clothes, cleaning the house, decorating the nursery, writing up a birth plan, and documenting it all with perfectly snapped photos on her Instagram account. Martha was taking care of business, doing what needed to be done according to the expectations and customs of the time.
Martha was probably not the only one who thought Mary needed correcting. The other people in the room probably thought it odd and perhaps even inappropriate that a woman was sitting, listening to what Jesus was saying instead of helping with the duties. Her place was next to Martha, and Martha would not have been the only one to notice that empty space. Society uses a very different measuring stick than God, and it can be really difficult to quiet those voices and expectations in your head. For most of us, we have been raised with these voices and measuring sticks as normal, and it is hard to go against the grain and to make a choice you know is wise but can look foolish to everyone else. In my mind, I imagine Mary got some snarky looks and heard others whispering behind her, but she kept her eyes and ears focused on Jesus.
My favourite part of this story is when Jesus says “Martha, Martha.” He doesn’t just say her name once and carry on. He says her name twice. I picture Jesus saying her name tenderly as he shakes his head ever so slightly in a knowing way. He knows us so intimately, he knows Martha’s heart is well-intentioned to serve, to take care of the guests in her home, to do her duty. He knows she is tired from doing it all on her own. He knows that like a child she just couldn’t quite see what her choices could mean. He says her name twice so she really hears Him, to catch her ear. In her busyness, in her frantic haze, He says her name twice to break through and get her to pause to hear what He has to say because what He is about to say will change everything if she would just take a moment to listen. She comes to Jesus for a quick fix, to get Mary to help and I picture her almost starting to rush away, trusting He will send Mary in after her, but the “Martha, Martha” stops her in her tracks.
I love how God’s word always remains true, whether it feels like coming home to familiar passages or stepping into new territory. I love how you can read the same story over and over again and each time the Spirit meets you there with something new. God’s word never grows tired, it never grows stale and stagnant, because God’s word is alive.
So as I sit here typing, I feel that nudge and hear that whisper, “Alicia, Alicia.” I know I need to take my own advice and turn toward that familiar voice instead of all the “shoulds” that surround me.
May we be women that are free from the pressure and guilt Martha felt, and instead find peace in the presence of that voice and allow things to be undone or messy if that voice is calling us to engage with His bigger better plan. May that voice become more and more familiar and discernable in our noisy lives. May our eyes and ears stay focused on Him as the other voices around us try to distract and discourage us.