March 15, 2007

In one of the gospel accounts there is a story of Jesus visiting the home of two sisters Mary and Martha. While Martha busied herself preparing a meal for Jesus and his disciples, Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet intently listening to his every word. Martha, becoming exasperated with her sister said something of the following to Jesus, “I could really use some help here in the kitchen, seeing I’m the only one trying to prepare a meal!”. Jesus’ response, I’m sure, caught Martha off guard. He said something along the lines of, “Relax, Martha, you are worried about too many things that really aren’t all that important. Mary, on the other hand, has figured out what’s really important and she’s doing it. Leave her be.”

It’s pretty obvious what behavior Jesus is commending here and therein lies the battle for many of us. I’m sure Martha had some deep feelings for Jesus or she would not have been following him around the countryside, caring for his needs and the needs of his disciples. In her mind, serving in the practical ways, as she was in this instance, was her way of expressing love for her Lord. If we were to do a gifting profile on Martha she would no doubt come out as having a strong servant motivation. That’s a good thing, right? Yes. However, according to Jesus, Martha still missed the point.

So what is the point? Why has Mary, down through the ages, been honored for her actions over the actions of her sister? Here’s what I think. Jesus, above all else, longs for our undistracted attention. We were made to derive our very life from Him and the only way we can do that is to be with Him, listening to Him, receiving from Him in quiet, submitted, loving adoration. It’s the “being” part of following Jesus that is the most important. The “doing” part flows out of the “being” part and the “being” part is formed by being in His presence. “Doing” is important, but it is secondary to and the by-product of “being”.

Mary indeed got it right. Though I strongly relate with Mary in my heart, it’s Martha’s actions I most identified with. It’s honestly easier for me to busy myself with many things, good things and useless things alike, than to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus. Distractions by the bucketful are easy for me to collect and than sit and sift through while irretrievable time slips by. To be honest I have derived my sense of worth from “doing”, from accomplishing things. My family is a family of doers. But, I’m also on a journey. A journey to develop the heart and discipline of Mary, to be with Jesus in the way He can transform my mind and soul. The doing, I know, will follow.