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How to Be Mary and Martha at the Same Time

how-to-be-martha-and-mary-at-the-same-timeBusy much? Modern family life sure comes with a list of demands. As if it’s not enough to feed hungry people and help with homework, these days we also feel the pressure to enroll in enriching activities, manage chore charts, run an Etsy store, and post pictures of our casseroles on Facebook.

Seriously, nobody wants to see my casserole.

So how can we corral the craziness?

For starters—we simplify.

I’m not talking about decluttering closets or getting rid of cable. What we need is a different kind of simplicity. We need to simplify our hearts.

But how?

Let’s begin by taking a fresh look at a familiar story from the gospels.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42)

If you’re a go-getter, then you’ve probably read that story and felt a little defensive. I mean, come on, Jesus. Let’s go easy on poor Martha here. Somebody has to feed the people, right?

However, when we really dig into this story, we see Martha’s problem was not the preparations. We all have work to do, chores to tend, deadlines to meet and mouths to feed. That’s okay. Martha’s real problem was that she was “distracted” and “worried and upset about many things.”

Look at your to-do list right now. Is your trouble the work, or your attitude toward it? Are you freaking out about everything you have to do and all the people you need to serve? Is your to-do list causing you to get cranky with the people around you—like Martha got cranky at Mary and Jesus?

The Bible says Mary chose the better thing—which is what?

To rest in the presence of Jesus.

Today I want to suggest that you can do both. Work and rest—at the same time. Here’s how.

  • Maintain your focus on Jesus. Regardless of your activities or stress level, are you keeping Jesus in the center of your thoughts and vision?

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” ( from Hebrews 12:1–2)

  • Pray to Him, even as you do your work. Sometimes prayer is a half hour of isolated quiet time, and sometimes it’s an ongoing conversation with the Lord while you’re scrubbing dishes or mowing the lawn.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)

  • Remember why and for whom you work. This simple shift in thinking can motivate us to tackle (or trim) any to-do list, regardless of what’s on it.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)

  • Believe His promises that He is going to provide for you day after day. Are you freaking out about finances? Wondering how in the world you’re going to pay for college or medical bills or next month’s mortgage? In other words, are you “worried and upset about many things?” I know it’s hard. But try to see these circumstances as an invitation to trust that our God can—and will—do amazing things.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

  • Ask the Lord for guidance on how to spend your time. God gave us all the same 24 hours in a day, right? So it stands to reason that whatever work He gives us should be do-able within a 24 hour day.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

How do we discern what God is putting on our schedule and what we’re adding to it ourselves? It’s a process. It begins by praying, seeking God through reading the Bible so you can get to know Him and His will better, and discussing your to-do list with your spouse or other godly counselors.

We all have to beware buying into the lie that busy is better. Yes, we should work hard and not be idle. But to be too busy—overscheduled, stressed, preoccupied—only distracts us from our real priorities of faith, family and self-care.

So by all means, do the work God gave you to do. But practice sitting at His feet while you’re doing it. Because remember—Jesus loved Mary and Martha, too. He wanted the best for each of them, just as he does for you.

Becky Kopitzke

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  1. I have found that the solution to the frequent dilemma of our busyness is contained in the very first sentence of that passage which is “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him” When someone enters your home as a guest, you feel compelled to set aside your important tasks to attend to them, even if the arrival is unexpected or inconvenient to your own activities. We are promised by Jesus that if we make ourselves so available to Him, becoming vessels empty of other concerns in anticipation of His arrival, that our God will indeed make His home within us. That sounds very similar to His promise to us of our eventual residence in Heaven I would say. When we allow His taking up residence in deference to Him alone as our response to His gracious invitation, it will not be without our noticing that this has occurred and certainly not without causing within us, at the recognition of His presence, an insatiable desire to please Him. It is when “we open our home” to Him, that of our very being, determined in attending His every want, desire, and pleasure which is as often as not our being willing to sit at His feet, be still, and listen, that we are availed of the abiding peace which resides within the communion of the Holy Trinity. We should insure that our attendance to God is not distracted or merely conducted for the purpose of our accomplishment even if that accomplishment is what we believe to be the noble pursuit of our own sanctity. We should always and everywhere be adamant in our determination to be sustained in our immediate presence to God, “alone” with Him in our hearts, since He has so graciously determined to reside within us as we live our our lives. We should assume this posture toward Him no matter how we may be otherwise physically occupied. In this manner we may allow ourselves to be sustained in His peace by being immediately possessed of God alone and not by our circumstances or what we consider to be the task at hand. I have found that our appropriate response to the presence of God, the one which can be observed to please Him the most when He arrives to greet us, is really that basic and is that simple.

    1. Great points, Terry. I was just having this conversation with my Bible study group yesterday. The true purpose of hospitality is not to make sure every detail of dinner and decor is perfectly in place, but rather to usher people into the love of Jesus. We can do that in a variety of ways. It’s always a heart issue first and foremost. Blessings!

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