Relinquishing Martha

We have succumbed to the lure of lazy Sunday mornings spent on the back porch with an extra-large mug of coffee and a good book, and have not been to church all summer.  Not until yesterday, when we were sort of forced to show up because my husband was scheduled to be lay reader in the service.  It’s good that we went ~we had a chance to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Good to be reminded that folks in the congregation are like a second family to us, and have missed seeing us there. 

I have to imagine that Jim was inwardly chuckling as he read the  morning’s scripture lesson.  It was the famous story of Martha and her sister Mary, and the different ways they reacted to an unexpected visitor (that would be Jesus).   Martha goes nuts trying to be the perfect hostess, while Mary plops down on the floor at Jesus’ feet and  just savours being in his presence.  Martha, frustrated at what she perceives to be Mary’s abdication of responsibility, turns to Jesus for support.  “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work myself?  Tell her to help me!”

Of course, the Lord is no help.  “Martha,” He says, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”


Just last week, when it appeared we were to have some unexpected visitors, I went into full Martha mode – hustling around, cleaning, shopping, fretting over the weeds in the garden and the dust on the draperies.   I do that a lot – get into a frenzy about all the “things” that need to be done.  

Yesterday as our minister talked about allowing ourselves time to communicate with God, to enjoy life, to reflect on the many blessings we’ve been given, I was reminded that the “better part” of living is not cleaning or organizing or paying bills.  Those things are necessary, of course, but so is a calm and peaceful  spirit.

So I’m trying to curb my Martha tendencies and be more Mary-like.

With that thought, I’m setting my usual Monday chores aside and heading off on a family walk.

5 thoughts on “Relinquishing Martha

  1. Well, I have to laugh as I read this, because I’m always teased about my Martha tendencies — and they don’t mean as in Martha-and-Mary but the other one! The perfect one!

    A couple of years ago, I stopped giving my annual holiday party for 90 of my closest-and-not-so-closest friends (but they’d be offended if they weren’t asked) because 1) I’m insane at the holidays anyway 2) I go all Martha, which leads to #1 and 3) because I never got to see anyone apart from welcoming at the door and saying goodbye at the same spot. Everyone said “I have the best time, you have the best parties ever.” And I think, “Were they at the same party I was? Oh, yeah — I did see them come in…”

    This reminds me of also, of the post I wrote at Thanksgiving, when our world was falling apart with broken heads, ribs and arms and no Thanksgiving plans. I invited people over spur of the moment, determined that we’d just stretch the food — they didn’t have a place to go, either. It was the lowest stress holiday I ever did — and a valuable lesson in savoring the people, not the preparation.

    I’ll probably always try to make it nice… but maybe not “overtry” like usual. Yes, this is a good post for me to see, and I should call on my innerMary more often than my innerMartha!

  2. I swing back and forth between my Martha and Mary tendencies. I do think my “true self” is more Mary-like… and I need to remember that when the Martha’s are frustrated with me. This story speaks to human nature… it’s amazing how relevant it is today.

  3. Yes, we also had the same sermon about Martha and Mary. I wish I could be more like Mary, but I too fret if things aren’t done. And my husband is no help – he always wants things spit and polished. Probably from his military high school training.
    It reminded me that my grandfather Crawford had two sisters named Martha and Mary. I have a picture of one – no one was sure if it was Martha or Mary. The tragedy is that one of them was riding side saddle, caught her hoop skirt on the pommel of the saddle and was dragged to her death. I always think about that sad story when I hear the names Mary and Martha.

  4. I was quite the Martha for many years. It is my first way of being, but I’m not so adept at it anymore. I still want to be Martha, but Mary keeps asserting herself these days. Still, with the slightest provocation, Martha still makes an appearance. Old ways die hard.

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