Martha, Martha

>From Luke 10:

38As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40But 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!”

41“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42but only one thing is needed.“[f] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In the days when I knew everything, I used to roll my eyes at Martha. It’s so obvious that sitting at the feet of Jesus is better — and then she has the nerve to SAY something? To JESUS? Seriously, Martha.

Today, I thought of Martha again as I was pouring Formula 409 on every surface of our bathroom. (Normally I’m philosophically opposed to the nasty stuff, but the Toilet Overflow of 2010 made me change my tune, at least for today. I needed DISINFECTANT.) The kids were outside with Nathan after dinner, exploring, playing frisbee, connecting.

I opted to stay inside alone and sanitize the bathroom. Because if I didn’t, the kids couldn’t brush their teeth there an hour later. And I was also getting to the other chores and cleaning I hadn’t had time (made time?) to do earlier that day.

“I’m with the kids all day,” I reasoned. “It’s good for them to have a little daddy time.” But am I really WITH them all day? I’m right here, but if I fall into my usual pattern, I interact with them distracted — or I’m barking at them to stop doing something or other because it counteracts my carefully laid plans. (I also tend to focus on the negative, but just work with me here.)

But really, Jesus. If Martha hadn’t been so “upset and worried about many things,” you probably wouldn’t have had anything to eat later. There is such a thing as the gift of hospitality. This is what I say to him as my nose stings and lungs constrict from the 409 fumes. Because I don’t get his response. Like I’m sure it did Martha, it kind of stings. And really, if I’m honest, I’m afraid he values this work I do for my family as little as society at large does.

There must be more going on here.

During bedtime prayers with the kids, I asked for more connection, more presence tomorrow. I prayed for the day’s grace and mercy to show up as promised, and I quietly promised him that I’d show up as well. It’s not all or nothing, and it’s not that the preparations should be dropped completely. But if I can measure the success of my day by my ability to be present, rather than by my performance or accomplishments, I think I might be edging a little closer to Mary. Because being there, at his feet, learning and observing, is the only thing that’s needed.

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