Sitting at His feet
Yearning for His heart
Mary has chosen the better part
Slow my racing soul
Stop! oh cluttered mind
I see, surely I am Martha’s kind.
This very familiar story has been heard time and again from the pulpit and at women’s conferences. We may refer to it in our discussions, especially as women, regarding the busyness of our daily realm. However, I discovered something new, (to me) when reading it recently.
The scene is found in Luke’s Gospel 10:38-42 (RSV).
I have always taken this scripture to say that being as busy as many of us are, is an area of sin that must be laid down. I have lived with the guilt and condemnation that comes with that. I have imagined myself with a huge dinner plate loaded to the max with various and sundry things. It was up to me to determine that which I had foolishly scooped onto my plate and that which God had put there. It was up to me (or so I thought) to scrape away anything that was not of His choosing. It was an all too common exercise in “Try hard; FAIL; Try harder”. You get the picture, and maybe like me, you have lived it.
Though it is true, at least in part, it is our responsibility to discern that which is the call on our lives, there’s more here than I have seen before. Jesus’ words to Martha, when she has complained to Him about her sister’s neglect (and His as well, as He has not told Mary to help) are “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things…”
Jesus is not actually addressing Martha’s working so much as He is the state of her mind. “Anxious and troubled”, He said. “One thing is needful”, He said in verse 42, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
I am wondering if at some point, Mary, after having listened to the Lord’s teaching that day might have gotten up from her place and helped her sister. Or is it possible that Martha, taking Jesus’ words to heart, shook off her distractions and planted herself right next to Mary? The Word does not reveal that, but the possibilities are many.
Mary indeed chose the “good portion”, and we must also. Martha’s work was not her problem, but the condition of her mind and heart were. There is much to do for our Father’s kingdom along with the tasks required to live in our daily realm. As women we seem to have a bent toward the too much in every area of life. Just like Martha we become anxious and troubled, but just like Mary we can sit at the feet of the master, slowed and stilled; open to hear the heart of our Lord.
Of course there is much to do, but I encourage each of you to find that place; determine to make that place; in this day, this hour, so that you may come away with that good portion that shall not be taken from you. Then and only then can we carry out joyfully and with sound mind the duties set before us. Some of our tasks are so menial, like Martha’s, but because we sat still before Him; because we hung on and absorbed His word, we can perform this service to others in a well - ordered fashion, with a peace filled and loving heart.
The cooking, the washing, the cleaning up, are indeed the tasks of an excellent and noble woman…a servant of God. When called, anointed, and ordained by our Father, we had best first receive our teaching at the feet of the master.
Yes, indeed we are like Martha
But not for one more day
We will sit here next to Mary
What has Jesus got to say?
Do not be a troubled Martha
Anxious in your busyness
You must choose the one good portion
Then in your work all will be blessed.