I’m just going to say it, and believe me; it’s hard to admit:
I’m such a Martha. And this is not a good thing.
The Martha I’m referring to is the one in the Bible. You know, the one who scurried around the house getting everything ready for Jesus’ big visit? There she was cooking, cleaning, getting things just perfect while her sister Mary helped her not at all. Some sister! Yet when Martha complained to Jesus, guess who got it? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t Mary.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed.. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NIV).
What is better? This verse always gets me. I mean, if the world were full of Marys, people who sit at the feet of Jesus all day, nothing would ever get done, right? The house would never be clean, dinner would never get made and the dog would surely go unfed. Somehow it feels unfair for Martha to be dissed. After all, she’s the one thinking ahead, trying to make sure Jesus would have a pleasant evening in their home.
Yet this is just my cantankerous side. And of course I trust the words of Jesus. Martha was so focused on the tasks at hand that she forgot to stop and visit with her savior. She was missing out: on his lessons, his wisdom, on the experience of sitting with the messiah. Sometimes dinner can wait.
What a mess I’d be if I the Marys in this world didn’t exist. I need them to remind me to stop.
Stop running around.
Stop worrying about inane stuff.
Stop doing, and start enjoying.
I’m a taskmaster at heart. I love it when my house is in order, my work is done, my bills are paid and I’m all caught up. The only problem is this never happens.
With age comes a full life. And a life rich with family and friends and pets and work and hobbies is in constant motion. Each day is but a step toward where I’m going next. I never arrive at my destination, never get done with life.
If all I’m focused on is checking tasks off my never-ending to-do list, well then I am missing out. Missing out on family, fun, precious moments that make the other moments worth getting through in the first place.
It sounds so silly but this has always been a struggle for me. In high school, I needed my best friend to remind me to let loose and have some fun. When my kids were little I needed a mom’s group to motivate me to leave the house and socialize with other mothers. And a couple years back I needed an intervention.
Busy with family and work, I found myself in a place of constant craziness. I was volunteering too much, invested in too many clubs and organizations, and working too many hours. All this while still trying to keep my family alive, clothed and somewhat fed. And guess what that meant? It meant I wasn’t happy. I was doing too much and enjoying very little. Such a Martha am I.
It took my wise husband and a few friends to remind me I was the only one in charge of my life and schedule. No one else on earth was asking me to maintain an overloaded existence. This chaotic lifestyle was of my own doing.
So I did some simple things to begin a path of change. My first step was to designate Sunday as a no work day (I know, I know, I never should have been working on Sundays in the first place). A few weeks later I began to leave Sunday as a free day, no plans, no schedule (beyond church and running kids around). Guess what that meant? It meant I had time. Time to hang out with my family, take a walk, watch a movie, time to enjoy life.
It didn’t take long for me to embrace these changes and add more. I quickly rediscovered the simple pleasures of life. I rested, nurtured my soul and found joy. Joy!
As many of you know, my mother just recently passed away. Along with grieving, a death in the family also means there are new tasks that need my attention. Lately I have found myself going down the Martha path once again. But then I remember. Remember my mother’s words to me just a few weeks before she died.
We were talking about my day, what I had to do and when I would pick up my father so we could go visit her in the hospital. There was a slight pause in our conversation and then mom suggested we not visit her that day. Her words struck me, “I’m okay, you don’t have to come so often… You don’t have to be so responsible.” At the time, I blew these words off, thinking how mothers never quit worrying about their daughters.
But now that she is gone, I can’t get these words out of my head. They are a gift from my mother, a woman who knew me well. How many mothers tell their daughters they don’t need to be responsible? The words remind me my Martha tendency does not always serve me well. So back I go to working on being irresponsible. Think I can do it?
I’m sure I could use your input. So I’ll just ask. How about you, are you a Mary or a Martha? How do you to make sure your life is in balance, what do you that brings you joy?