Friday, December 5, 2014

Mary vs. Martha

The best word I can use to describe my personal life at the moment, is messy.

 As much as I wish I could change it about myself, I just do not function well in messes. Of any kind.

 I don't like messy, cluttered spaces-especially when I am trying to focus or work. I don't like messiness in relationships. And I like to have a plan, to know what's next and to map it all out in my head and on paper. When one of these areas is out of sorts, I feel off. When all of them are out of sorts, I feel paralyzed. Like I can't do anything until I de-clutter, sort out all of the messes, and make a plan.

 Unfortunately, life doesn't always look like the neat, tidy package I would like it to be. Actually, most of the time it doesn't.

 So, when I can't stand the messiness anymore, I start making lists. Lots and lots of lists. Lists of errands to run and people I need to catch up with. Things that need taken care of. Lists of things I need to talk to people about and things that I need to work on, and lists of potential next steps and plans. Because lists make me feel like I have some sort of control. Or maybe like even though there are a million things that need to happen, I at least know one next step.

 The root of this is that I am a DOER.

I cope with life by doing. If I am really busy and overwhelmed, my response is not to slow down, it's to do something to fix it. If I am sad or angry or confused or happy or depressed, I make a list and then start checking things off. Maybe not even productive things...just things to make me feel like I am doing something.

 I even do things to avoid thinking and stillness and quiet. Because those things scare me. I suppose if you had to put me in a Mary or Martha category, 8/10 times I would be a Martha. That's why I stopped being so hard on her a long time ago.

 Really she always gets the bad wrap in the story, and since I relate to her so much, I decided to figure out why. I mean after all, who wants to relate to the character in the Bible story who gets reprimanded!?

In true Martha form, I do not want to be anything less than the star student.

 Let's take a look at this story:

 {As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”}

 First things first. Martha was the one who initially opened her home to Jesus as soon as she heard He was in town and she "made Him feel quite at home."

It wasn't until later when Martha became overwhelmed and distracted by all of the things that needed doing that she withdrew from Jesus. And the saddest part of the story is that she allowed what she was doing for Jesus to pull her away from Him.

Ah. Don't we do this same thing? I know that I certainly do! Of course I am excited to invite Jesus into everything that I am doing. I want Him to be a part of all of it! But then there are lists and tasks and deadlines and details that all of a sudden He doesn't fit into...even things that we started out doing for Him in the first place. And so we leave Him in the other room while we zone in on all of the doing that needs to be done. And we tell ourselves it's okay because we are doing it for Him after all.

It's okay that we didn't fit in that prayer/worship/devotional time because we were serving at church or helping a charity or fill in the blank.

Currently I am distracted by the messiness of my heart and my life and how much cleaning and sorting I need to do before Jesus can even come in and sit down. #pride. Jesus would love to help me with the cleaning. In fact, He needs to help me.

Now I think that I am actually fairly equal parts Mary and Martha, but often my Martha wins out. The lesson in this story is not actually being a Mary vs. a Martha, I think it's more about learning how to balance the Mary and Martha within us.

It's a tricky line because obviously there are very good things to be said about having the heart of a servant. So what is it that makes Mary the star student in this particular account rather than Martha?


In vs. 40, we see Martha come out of the kitchen and confront Jesus about why he is not making Mary help her when there is so much to be done.

 This verse is key. If the serving and the prep work and the behind the scenes things that we are doing FOR Jesus don't come from a pure place in our heart and are done out of obligation with bitterness and resentment, then our service is done in vain. Jesus would rather have us, like Mary, just sitting at His feet leaving the things that need doing, undone.

So, how could this account have looked different. I think it might surprise you. I think that when we are kids we think that the answer is simple. Martha should have just walked away from whatever was happening in the kitchen and sat down with Mary and Jesus in the other room.

 I disagree. There is still doing to be done in the name of Jesus.

 This is what COULD have happened had Martha's heart been in the right place and her attitude in check.

 Jesus knocks on the door. Martha swings it open and greets Jesus with a hug and a smile. She says, "Hey! I am just finishing up a few things for dinner, but I've got a pot of coffee on in the kitchen. Why don't you come on in and sit with Mary and I and we can eat together in a bit!"

I don't really think this story is about Mary being in the living room and Martha being in the kitchen. I think it's more about the fact that Martha shut Jesus out of the kitchen and didn't invite Him in.

 It's like having people over for dinner or a party. They come in and they ask if there is anything they can do to help. Because we are trying to be polite, we tell them no and escort them into the living room and maybe get them a drink and then hurry back to kitchen to finish what we were doing. What we fail to realize, is that when they are asking to help us, they are actually asking to be with us. By denying them that and leaving them in the other room, we are actually denying them our presence. And think about who you do let help in the kitchen and who you keep in the other room. Family and close friends, we let right in the house even with messiness and unfinished details. We are more concerned about being polite and perfect when we lack close relationships with the people we invite into our homes.
That being said. Martha should have let Jesus of all people into that kitchen.

 We should let Jesus of all people into our hearts and lives despite the messiness. We should not only invite Him, but fling the door open with our arms stretched wide and a giant grin as soon as He knocks! We should lead Him right back to wherever the action is, pour Him a cup of coffee, and "make Him feel quite at home." Invite Him into the doing that needs done!

 So let's walk away from this story with fresh perspective. If you're a natural born server, that's not a bad thing! Not in the least. Just make sure Jesus is invited into your serving, ESPECIALLY when it's for Him! Make sure you are asking Him to keep your heart and motives in check so you are always giving and serving from a pure place. Mary is the good example here because she was present and in the moment with Jesus. Not just because she was still. We can't invite Jesus in and then shut Him out.

But in true Jesus fashion, He responds to Martha gently. I can almost hear a little laugh in His voice as He says to her, "Martha. Martha. You are getting yourself all worked up over nothing! Only one thing is really important. ME! That's what Mary chose tonight and I can't be taken away from you!"

 I have these words written on a bright pink notecard that I keep in my Bible. I wrote personalized notes like this for all of the girls on my hall during finals week one year. It has served as such a gentle reminder for me through the years!

 So spend some time evaluating the Mary and Martha inside of you (because we've all got one or the other or both). But more importantly, spend some time checking your heart. Better yet, spend some time asking Jesus to check your heart and your motives in serving and in being still and in everything, really. And while you're at it, put on a pot of coffee and invite him into the kitchen :)

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