Thursday, March 3, 2011

priorities - martha and mary

I've been thinking and reading a lot about Martha and Mary from the New Testament this week. Most of us are familiar with the story from Luke, where Christ and some of his disciples come the house of Martha.

Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. ~Luke 10:38-42
So, here is Martha the good host, accepting her Lord into her home and working hard to make sure that both he and his company are comfortable. And here is Mary, sitting at the foot of her Lord, soaking up the gospel treasures he is teaching, and, more than likely, bucking against the Jewish traditions of that time regarding a woman's place when men are being taught by a rabbi.

In another part of the story about these two sisters, we learn that their brother Lazarus has died. Word reaches Jesus and he waits two days before going to see them. Martha runs to meet Jesus as he enters the town of Bethany and her sister Mary stays, sitting, in the house.  Martha's earlier concerns about worldly cares do reflect on her faith at all when she tells Jesus, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:20), nor when she testifies to Him, "Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God..." (John 11:27).

Martha had developed her faith to the point where she knew, without doubt, that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, and that whatsoever thing he would ask of God it would be given him (John 11:22), and that if he would ask God to save her brother from death then it would be done. She was obviously able to balance the worldly and the spiritual cares. I believe that it was through her faith, along with the faith of many others there that day, that Jesus was able to ask God to loose the bands death and release Lazarus from the grave, and it was done.

Both Martha and Mary are doing good things and many lessons can be pulled from the story of these sisters.  The one I keep thinking about is balance, taking care of the needful things of both the world and the spiritual. I need to do things like clean my bathroom, cook dinner, keep up with admin requirements for my reserve unit and just veg in front of the TV at times. I also need to spend time studying my scriptures, meditating, praying and serving others. Both are good and needful things, but often I find it hard to balance both.

I get caught up in my worldly cares and sometimes--okay, a lot of times--forget about my spiritual cares until the last minutes in the day. I feel as though I have the internal equivalent of Martha and Mary going on. I know I'm not the only one who does, because I hear many others express the same concerns in church or during my conversations with them. It helps to know I'm not alone in this.

I am learning how to make it all work. Each day I have to decide, if the dirty bathroom is the priority or sitting and reading my scriptures. If getting caught up on work or sitting for an hour in quiet meditation and placing myself in His presence will be the priority. It's the choices I make that show where my priorities are. Sometimes, the priority has to be the dirty bathroom or getting caught up on work. Sometimes, it's getting to spend time with Him. I know this, but I still struggle with it.

I thought for sure that by now I would have this figured out. Ha! There is so much I'm still figuring out. I do love that even Martha, whose faith in Jesus Christ made it possible for God's will to be manifest through her brother, struggled with this balance. I mean, wouldn't you stop everything to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him teach? I think Martha was somehow able to see the bigger picture.  She knew that sometimes we do have to take care of those around us and meet our worldly obligations. Yet she still found time to have the necessary spiritual experiences which enabled her faith to grow. I know I can too.

And now, the rest of the story according to me:  I am willing to bet that, later, once the company was all gone, Mary stood with her sister, Martha, at the kitchen sink while they washed the dishes and cleaned up the meal, and shared the things she had learned at the feet of her Lord. After all, that's what any good sister would do.


C in DC said...

I saw this quote on facebook the other day, and really liked it. I think you're stuggling (as we all do), with a variation on this theme. For me, it's chosing from between competing demands.

Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most. — Unknown Author

sylvia/ticklethepear said...

Some days I feel like Martha, other days like Mary.

Angela said...

I really liked how you pinpointed so many of the natural human emotions we all have, and the delicate balance of taking care of first our souls and spirituality but also not neglecting the day to day things. Life is such a balancing act. I'm happiest when I'm balanced, and try to be as much as possible and there are days when I'm not and can really feel it. It's gonna be a lifelong pursuit!