Most of you reading this know the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.
I won’t take time to write all about the details of it – you’re more than capable of looking into the story and passage yourself if you’re reading this so I’ll spare you from feeling patronized.
But you know the one I mean – where Jesus commends Mary for knowing the better thing, the better way. The enlighted way and path, perhaps.
For many, that I seem to be around, whether it’s been wonderful friends recently in Redding, in Bethel’ ministry school ‘burning out‘ for Jesus it often sounds a bit like, rather than simply burning for Jesus, in chatting with them. ( Strangely encouraged by the way the structure of Bethel’s Ministry School is set out, despite a verbal assuage to rest). I am then confronted afresh with the scary same Martha do do do Christianity back home.
When I was 21 years old someone kindly gave me a book about Martha and Mary, and it began a rather huge journey for me. The happy journey towards becoming more of a Mary, and away from all the identity-less Martha-like, orphan-spirited non-ending serving. All done from a good heart, but completely out of kilter with God’s best for us.
Jesus knew and understood that what really matters, and is to come first is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.’ Different translations offer slightly different wording on this. The bottom line, though, is that loving God comes first.
What most well meaning folks don’t realise, at least at first, in their spiritual walks is that ‘learning to sit at the feet of Jesus’ is everything. Learning to draw near, drown out the noise and busyness all around us and demands vying for one’s attention, is the key part and what Father God is after. Serving is great, but its actually not to come ahead of that. Learning to enter into that kind of spiritual intimacy and living out of that kind of service, is really what Jesus prefers. It will even get you into trouble (as I soon discovered!). Learning to lean in, stop the do, do, doing and simply focus to be still – (even God forbid silent!) and tuning in to be with God – Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – is really what is the crux of Christianity.
No wonder the enemy does his damn best to stop it ever happening.
Mary is much more my model these days. Far from how I used to be, I don’t need to be busy, busy busy doing, doing, doing ALL the time as I was (many of you will remember) in my University days. Other forced circumstances changed all that. Things I would never have chosen at the time, but for which I’m now very grateful. (Listening to one’s body is essential by the way). If the body is speaking, we have to listen. God can often be in this, and can use it, even when its unwelcome and undesireable at the time.
It’s liberating to remove unnecessary service and fruitless “doing” from our schedules.(Liberating but not necessarily liked by others!) Martha, after all accused Mary of basically leaving her to do all the work. She “told” on Mary, to Jesus. But Jesus was having none of it and soon put her right. Its freeing to know this. Never mind life-enhancing to enter into greater depths in one’s spiritual relationship. The biblical art of meditation is something also worth making time for and focusing on. Interestingly it also seems that Jesus noticed Marth – as the do-er, was more stressed and upset by many thing. Listening to Jesus dimishes these worries. True Christianity is not complicated, or ever meant to be burdensome. If it’s started to feel that way, there’s something out of balance. Jesus burden is easy and light. It’s religion that tries to shackle us again.
Many will misunderstood you along the way at the beginnjng of embracing such a journey, ultimately of deep, beautiful prayer and intimacy, and no doubt many more will (and that’s ok). However, just remember Mary chose the better part. Mary was the one commended by Jesus.
I dont know about you, but I want to be known as a Mary. Not a Martha.
Perhaps it’s time to have a re-think.
Serving like Martha is good, but sitting at the feet of Jesus is not just better, it’s radical. Totally counter-cultural, and worth the cost – because yes it will cost. Anything valuable is costly. True sacrifice is expensive. Sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning to be a listener involves paying a price. But personally, I think the price is worth it.
Oh and dont beat yourself up either, if Martha is ‘more your thing’- God still blessed and loved Martha too.
Take the stick away and stop beating yourself with it.
If you want to embrace the journey, do. Fifteen years on it’s still a mine of mysterious excavation. Treasures – after all – are traditionally found in caves.