41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
You wanna be like Mary, but in reality, you’re like Martha. Believe me, lovely reader, I know how you feel. I’ve been there, and I’m back there again.
So if you’re a Martha and wanna be like Mary, what do you DO about it?
Here’s a little exercise to try this weekend:
- Recognize your gifts, passions, and personality. Understand and accept who you are. God made you that way for a reason. God likes you like this!
- Recognize how you are feeling. Are you worried and upset? Are you critical and judgmental? Are you jealous of people who seem to have an easier time sitting at the feet of Jesus?
- Identify what is motivating you right now. Are you distracted by the preparations? Are you busy with things that seem necessary but really are not needed?
- Take it to God. Mary and Martha both went straight to Jesus. They just had different catalysts for their encounters with God. Maybe being stressed and overwhelmed by the tasks of your day can be used to turn your attention to the one thing that is truly needed.
- Allow God to redirect your focus. Where should your time and attention be right now? What is truly needed?
Maybe sitting at Jesus’ feet isn’t your natural state of being. Maybe it takes work. It was work for Brother Lawrence, St. Ignatius, and the author of The Cloud of Unknowing, too. That’s why they devoted so much time and effort toward cultivating their focus toward God.
If you’re task-oriented, make time with Jesus one of your “tasks” for the day. Maybe it’s your only task for one whole day, the only and best accomplishment. If you like lists, put time with Jesus on there along with runs to the grocery store and calls to clients.
And if you’re not like this at all, if you’re naturally a Mary, well then…
YOU ROCK! We all wish we could be more like you. Don’t let ANYONE take away what you have chosen. God promised you could stay right where you are at the feet of Jesus, and God will defend you! You just keep on sitting.
For the rest of us, put sitting on your list. And then DO it.
And then come back and share your experience in the comment box below.
So let’s say you’re like me. You are an achiever. You are, as Tom Rath wrote, “utterly dependable.” You are a DOer.
You are like Martha.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 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!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
Notice how Martha responds to the situation. She does not burst into the room and drag Mary away to help her with the preparations. She does not grumble under her breath, building up resentment and anger, and passive-aggressively snub Mary for the next week.
Martha goes straight to Jesus. She tells him exactly how she feels and asks for exactly what she thinks she needs.
Notice how Jesus responds to Martha. He does not condemn her. He does not criticize her work. He does not tell her to stop doing all the good and productive tasks she is responsible for. Here’s what he DOES say:
- You are worried.
- You are upset.
- Most of these things aren’t needed (not that they aren’t good or productive or worthy or useful, just that they aren’t NEEDED). In other words, your energy and effort are misplaced. In Luke’s words, you are distracted.
- Your criticism and judgment of Mary are misplaced.
Martha goes to Jesus with her frustration and anger, and Jesus gently redirects her focus.
This is what mentors and supervisors would call a “teachable moment.” Instead of punishing Martha for her Achiever and Responsible nature, Jesus uses the situation to show Martha the truth about herself — how she is really feeling and what is really motivating her actions — and to help Martha recognize what really is needed and better, and ultimately, what will resolve her feelings and correct her motivations.
Here’s what I love about this passage: what Mary does naturally, Martha has to learn.
Now here’s what we learn from Jesus’ response.
You do not need to change who you are or how you operate.
If you are like me, if you are an exhausted, inexhaustible achiever who is too responsible to allow yourself to let go of and step back from the tasks you have taken upon yourself, then you can breathe a sigh of relief here.
You will always be the achiever. You will always be responsible.
What you need to learn, what we all need to learn here, is that we are easily distracted by the worries and frustrations around us. We focus on the wrong things. We get caught up in what we think is necessary when really only one thing is needed.
If you’re like me, you want to be like Mary. You want to be a BEer. You want to be satisfied with nothing else than sitting at the feet of Jesus.
You wanna-be-like-Mary, but that is just not naturally who you are. In reality, you are more like Martha.
You don’t feel settled if you haven’t accomplished something for the day. You don’t feel comfortable if you backed out of a commitment or let something fall through the cracks.
That’s okay. God made you with that drive for accomplishment and that dependability. God loves that about you!
So what do you do when you wanna be Mary but are really a Martha?
Find out tomorrow!
If you’re like me, you have a complex.
You have a desire, nay, a driving need, to DO, to DO WELL, and to HAVE DONE more, concurrently, and better than everyone else you know.
You excel at doing, and you draw your self-worth from how much you have done and how well you have done it.
You are a task-completer, a list-checker-off-er. Your number one strength on the StrengthsFinder test is Achiever. (PS. This actually means you have a bigger complex than I do because Achiever is only number three on my StrengthsFinder results. Nany nany boo boo.)
You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day — workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. – Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0 (p37)
Okay, maybe not all of you are Achievers, but a lot of you are. A lot of Christians are, especially Christian women. We’re taught early and often that we live to serve, and that our value both in our church community and in our homes is based on what, how much, how often, and how well we DO for everyone.
This is not news.
Martha, sister of Lazarus and friend of Jesus, would have scored Achiever as her number one strength, right above Responsibility.
That’s right. This is you, too, and a lot of other Christians. Your word is your bond. You always come through. You never let anything fall through the cracks.
[You] take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and whether large or small, you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion. Your good name depends on it…. This conscientiousness, this near obsession for doing things right, and your impeccable ethics, combine to create your reputation: utterly dependable…. Your willingness to volunteer may sometimes lead you to take on more than you should. – Tom Rath, StrengthsFinder 2.0 (p149)
Super-DOer. That’s you.
You have this need to achieve, and whether you want to or not, you find yourself committed to doing more and more. You are the quintessential soccer mom. You have it all together.
You are super human.
You are BUSY.
You are TIRED.
You are JEALOUS and CRITICAL of anyone who is not caught up in your whirlwind of activity and responsibility. You JUDGE.
How do you have time and energy to do and be everything everyone wants and expects you to do and be?
You are a DOer.
So was Martha.
Okay, that’s not news.
Rachel touched on this when she said advertising tries to make us believe we aren’t enough. Kathy touched on this when she said that well-behaved women won’t change the church.
What you need to know is what to DO about it, right?
To be continued…