Being a Martha when you should be a Mary

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Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” Luke 10:42.

The Gospel

The story of sisters Martha and Mary is highlighted in Luke 10.  Jesus comes into the city of Bethany and stays at the house of Lazarus who lives with his sisters Martha and Mary. This visit seems to be a surprise and sends Martha into a flurry of activity to receive and prepare for her very important guests. While Martha is hard at work, getting ready for the meal and preparing the house her sister, Mary, chooses to sit with Jesus and his disciples: “She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word” (Luke 10:39).

At some point, Martha (understandably you might think), gets upset: “But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.'” (Luke 10:40). Jesus replies: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her’ ” (Luke 10:40-42). In essence, He tells Martha that it is not about her preparation but the time Mary is spending with Him which is most important.

When I read this story I instantly thought of all us moms out there! How many of us are Martha’s who constantly prepare things behind the scenes but are rarely ever able to sit and enjoy the good parts. Does this seem like the story of our lives? I know I find myself being the one to prep and plan everything and at times feel very left out of the actual events because of this.

Mine is certainly not the only story like this. I have seen it countless times with my own family.  We I was little we loved to play games during big gatherings like the holidays or birthdays. I remember growing up and my grandma rarely ever played with us. She was always cooking or cleaning up afterwards and then might sit down to play after a little while. I see myself starting this pattern as well. I get so caught up in the food and the preparation that I’m not getting the full experience of what I am working so hard to create.

Personality Differences

I see Mary and Martha as very distinct personality types. Martha is the type A personality. If you are not a type A I’m sure you know someone who is *raises hand*. This is the mom that hosts events and is in control…maybe even a little too controlling *also raises hand*.  How many of us fall into this category? Obviously, I do!

In contrast, you have Mary who is more a type B personality.  This is not a bad thing at all!  The Type B mom is just as amazing…and may have lower blood pressure then her Type A counterpart.  This mom is in the ride instead of driving the ride.  She may appear to be laid back and have more laundry sitting around then her Type A friend but she is just as much a rockstar! But type B moms are still moms and not immune to becoming a Martha.

Martha Photo by Tina Dawson on Unsplash

When I think of this story, I instantly put myself as a Martha. If someone showed up to my house I’d welcome them with open arms and then start cooking, cleaning and let’s be honest, panicking! This wasn’t just the neighbor down the street that showed up at it her door…it was Jesus!

Martha even gets so caught up in making preparations that she tells Jesus to make her sister help her! Who hasn’t been there?!?! Have you ever yelled at your kids or spouse to come help you when they were playing or watching TV? Guilty right here! Have you ever had the thought why does everyone else get to have fun or participate while I’m stuck here doing dishes, or cooking?

First, banish all thoughts about negativity towards others! These are straight from the devil. He is allowing thoughts to come in to spread discord and to trap you in a prison that you have made yourself. No one is telling you to do dishes!  In fact, in asking others to come and help you are taking away their experience as well. Jesus tells Martha, and us, that Mary’s experience will not be taken away. The experience is the better choice! Don’t miss out on life’s experiences and don’t make others miss out either!

Mary

Mary sees the opportunity of Jesus coming into her home as an amazing experience. She wants to be in the center of that experience so she does not miss anything. She is soaking up all of Jesus’s teachings and glory. Mary lets the experience guide what she does instead of dictating and guiding the experience. What an incredibly freeing thought (or panicking if you are a little bit of a control freak)!

To Mary, it is not important what Jesus is going to eat or drink while He is in her home. It’s important what He says, does and that she is able to be present in the experience. As a mother, is it more important that you make your kids the perfect snack in the cleanest kitchen or that you eat with them and share their daily musings after school? We can be present in so much more than just the big events! Many times we make memories during the small, seemingly insignificant part of our daily routines.  Jesus did not come to Lazarus’s house for his birthday or a holiday.  There was no planned BBQ for the neighborhood.  Jesus spoke in the moments to those around Him to create lasting memories in His daily work.

I am learning to do this. For me, it looks like planning ahead in order to participate in the big events like, birthday parties and holidays, I make sure everything is ready the day before so I’m not stressed out about things not going right and I can enjoy the event itself.

Every day I make sure that I take the time to speak into and listen to my daughter. I do dishes and clean after she goes to bed and I make sure I do little things every day to help me out getting things cleaned or ready so it’s not an all night project. This has been a huge learning experience and does not come naturally to me. So what can you do in your life to make sure you are present for the events?

Devotional Exercise

Life is all about creating a balance. Yes, cleaning is important, especially when we have little mess makers in our lives (or sometimes big mess makers!). But there needs to be a balance. The life of a mom is all about walking a tight rope. How do we take care of these little lives while not loosing ourselves or our sanity? I think we all have times when we are both a Martha and a Mary.  Let me share with you how I have tried to become more of a Mary.

First, think of the next event that you want to be present for. This doesn’t have to be a big holiday or birthday party. It can be your child’s swim lesson. Maybe you aren’t present because you are doing a grocery list or writing emails to work, etc.

Next, I want you to think of something you love doing so much that you block out everything else (for some of us we have to go back to before we were moms to get a good idea!) I go back and think of when I was in school, I could sit down and read a good book in a day. If someone talked to me I would barely hear them. I ate with the book right there at the table and would even stay up super late just to finish it! Have you ever had this much focus and passion on something? Maybe it’s a quilt or a sweater you’ve worked on. Maybe it’s cooking; you get into the kitchen and just focus with passion and intensity because it’s something you love to do! Perhaps it’s running or hiking. It can be anything!

Finally, I want you to write down (or just think about) how focused this made you feel and how you were able to focus because it was something you love to do. You are going to be using this feeling so keep it in your mind.

Next, write down how you can focus on the upcoming event you want to be present for. For a party, maybe its cutting down the guest list, or planning a simpler meal. For a day out, maybe its staying closer to home so there’s less drive time. Maybe it’s making your grocery list before you go to bed so you can watch swim lessons. This is very personal and has to still fit in with your schedule.  Use the feeling that you came up with before.  What does that level of focus take?

Conclusion

We still have to cook, clean and run errands. The life of a mom is rarely glamorous and it is usually incredibly thankless. However, in all the errands and preparations and packing up lunches sometimes we need to be a Mary.  We need to sit and enjoy the experience. Perhaps, there are times when making the correct appropriations are in order but it should never take over so much that you miss the festivities or the company. In the midst of motherhood, it is hard sometimes to not get swept up in process instead of taking the time to sit in the moment.

This applies to all our relationships. Spending time with our kids, spouses, friends and God. When was the last time you sat at God’s feet and listened to Him? He speaks into you every day and asks you to listen to Him. Take the time to listen. Sit at God’s feet. Be a Mary.

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5 thoughts on “Being a Martha when you should be a Mary

  1. Sebastian

    Hi,
    What a thorough and useful post!
    I enjoy reading your article. I’m a Christian myself and the ideas you share here are really valuable and very helpful.
    We are very often preoccupied as you said with our activities while forgetting what is most valuable just like Marth in this story of Luke 10.
    However, making time for God in our daily lives is not wasted.
    I think this story can be extended even in the area of our choices. 

    Mary made a choice and Martha too. But the one who made a good choice is Mary, as Jesus stated it.
    May God help us to always choose well in life.
    Thank you for this beautiful website, I bookmarked for future read.

    Reply
  2. ecpags74

    Kara,

    I enjoyed your post because I, too, am usually the Martha instead of the Mary at an event.  It took me some time to find the right balance between the two.  Jesus doesn’t tell Martha to stop any of her preparations, he tells her that Mary chose a better path.  He tells Martha to slow down.  

    Sometimes the balance is in doing things so that they are “good enough” instead of “perfect”.  This is what was killing me.  I tried to be perfect at everything until I found myself in a situation where there was no way I could be perfect.  When I learned how to be “good enough”, life became much better for me and my family.

    All one or the other isn’t healthy.  Balance between making guests feel welcome and feasting with them is a most joyful place to be.

    Ellen

    Reply
  3. Andreas

    I find this site very relaxing and thoughtful, I am no mom neither do I have kids.. but the foundation and the storytelling on this site are just amazing and feel so honest, there is never at any point I feel stressed or that you are selling me something!

    It is just a wonderful relaxing time being able to read and put your stories into your own life and see things in a different light.

    I have a stepdaughter at the age of four years old and I can in this story of Martha see things from my own childhood and even in everyday life I live right now. This is truly inspiring and a reminder that there are good things out there on the internet.

    love

    Andreas 

     

    Reply
  4. drinkteahub

    This is such an insightful post, and a very timely one for me as I find myself, as usual, rushing around “getting things done”. I’m definitely a Martha so my first thought when someone visits my house is “what can I do for this person?” rather than “what does this person need from me?” You’re right, life has to be a balance between these two things. Thank you for making me stop and think and look at myself critically. And press the “pause” button on life for five minutes.

    Reply
  5. Princess

    Your blog has really hit home for me especially as a mother, you get so busy trying to everything for everyone. Eventually you lose yourself in the process and you end up missing out on the most crucial things in life.

    I am actually learning that it is not selfish to love yourself, to take care of yourself, to make your own happiness a priority. Mary in this case was really prioritizing herself by doing what she felt was crucial for her life and purpose.

    Oh my God! I am so inspired by your post; I have learned a lot especial ensuring that I am present for the events.

    Your post has really opened my eyes to see the importance of spending time with the people that matter the most in my life, especial spending time with God and listen to Him is the top priority to me.

    Tell me, how do you then balance because the reality is that you still have to manage the house, go to work for 10 hours or more, take care of the kids, studying, attend the events. It becomes overwhelming.

    What are the things I can implement to ensure that I don’t only remain a Martha and miss out  the important things?

    Reply

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