November 28, 2011

My Name Should’ve Been Martha

Last week was Thanksgiving. You most likely spent it with family. Some families get along great (I’m blessed to be part of one that falls into this category). But some…well, let’s just say it isn’t the holidays without a little bickering.

The Bible tells a story of a typical family, one with two sisters who couldn’t have been more different: Mary and Martha. (Their brother Lazarus is the one whom Jesus raised from the dead.)

John 10 gives a little glimpse into their lives. Martha was the responsible (most likely older!) sister, who was on the ball and worked her tail off to make sure everything was ready when Jesus came to stay with them. I totally get Martha. I relate to her. She and I would’ve been good friends if I’d lived 2,000 years ago.

And then there’s Mary: the free spirit (my interpretation). The lover/peacemaker. The one who might be prone to wandering off because she’s marveling in nature on a beautiful day.

The one I don’t understand one bit, because to me—at first glance—she was lazy.

I mean, hello! There were things to be done and all she was doing was sitting “at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said” (John 10:39b). Meanwhile, Martha was running around like a chicken with her head cut off. In my mind, I can see the feathers flapping and flying as she races around the kitchen.

But here’s the thing. Even though Martha’s intentions were good, even though she was taking care of others and serving them, Jesus told her that “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (John 10:42b).


That’s right. Mary chose what was better. Jesus also told Martha these wise words: “[Y]ou are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one” (John 10:41b-42a).

That “one” thing that’s needed? His name is Jesus.

It’s so, so easy for me to get wrapped up in all that I have to “do.” Our lives are full of “doing.” Much of the time, the activities that fill our day are intended to lift others up and serve the Lord. And that, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.

What is bad is when the “doing” outweighs—or altogether obliterates—the time spent praying, seeking God’s face, aching to know Him better, and simply sitting at his feet, listening to what He has to say.

Your Turn: Have you ever struggled with being a Martha? Do you have any suggestions for becoming a Mary (my ears are open!)?  

Photo courtesy of Rawich:


  1. I have a "do" addiction, too. What a timely post w/ the holidays and how people (esp. women) get all caught up in all there is to do.

    ~ Wendy

  2. This really hit home! I am completely a Martha and struggle to slow down. Sometimes I get so caught up with the "doing" that I forget to relax and enjoy.
    My son has been teaching me to be more like Mary. I enjoy watching him grow and learn. Everyday he does something new and while caring for this soon-to-be walking baby is time consuming, I wouldn't trade it for a moment!
    I do wish the house work and other obligations would slow down with me. When I find I am not enjoying my time with him because I am worrying about my To-Do List, I take a deep breath and remind myself he will only be little once, my chores will always be here.

  3. Wendy, I like how you put it: a "do" addiction. And yes, it's so easy, especially with Christmas, to get caught up in all the gifts that need to be bought and wrapped, food that needs to be cooked, trees that need to be trimmed--and forget that adoring Jesus and thanking God for his birth is the reason for it all.

    And TC, that's such a great application. Life passes us by so quickly, and it's not worth getting caught up in all there is on our to-do lists. Like you said, chores will always be there (and we all release a big sigh...), but life changes all the time. Cherish the moments instead of getting caught up in the busyness.

  4. A "do" addiction ... Ah, yes. Shoving Him aside to get to all those important things!
    Doesn't that look terrible when you write it out?
    The best way for me to beat my "do" addiction is to not back myself into a "have to" corner. If I procrastinate or for whatever reason don't allow enough time for what needs to be done (because let's face it, things do need to get done) it's all the easier to ignore what's needed for what's screaming loudest.
    It's the tyranny of the urgent syndrome. (Phrase not original with me.)

  5. So true, Beth. If we're constantly in triage mode, it can be very easy to ignore that still, small voice. I guess it's all about prioritization.

  6. I have so been a Martha most of my life. But it seems that I've slowly evolved into being a little more like Mary. I'm not sure how it happened. I think it was because so many in my family have pushed me throughout the years to be perfect - perfect housewife, perfect mother, perfect party hostess - until recently I had this epiphany that my immediate family (mainly my hubby) didn't care about me being perfect at all the trivial stuff. I think in recent years I've gained an appreciation for finding a balance between the two women. I love my Mary moments, I must say!!

    Nice to meet you!!!

  7. Welcome, Heather! Thanks for stopping by. :)

    It's interesting...I think a lot of the expectations I have for being "perfect" (in all of the areas you've described) are heaped upon my head by--me!

    I once had a mentor tell me to ask my husband what his top 3 things would be for my "to-do" list, and guess what? They had nothing to do with cleaning the house, etc.--all the things I'd been beating myself up over because I wasn't doing them right, or often enough. It's all about priorities and realizing I'm not Superwoman.

    I love my Mary moments too, and I hope to have plenty more of them!

  8. I agree with Wendy. This is such a timely post. Of all times when we're supposed to soak things in and worship Him, this season is the craziest and busiest. Thanks for the reminder, Lindsay!

  9. I know, Sarah. I was thinking back on last Christmas and hardly remember anything but shopping, food, and a busy, busy schedule. Maybe this year I can slow down purposefully and remember the "why" behind it all...

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  11. Excellent post for this time of year! As everyone said, perfect timing. I enjoyed reading this and look forward to more of your work. God bless you as you seek to honor Him with your gifts!

  12. Hi Suzy! Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment.

    I'm just praying I can take my own advice as I seek to be like Mary... :)