Mary-ing Our Marthas

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I was at a high school soccer game recently. I didn’t know the girls playing, but my second daughter was collecting the balls hit out of bounds with the rest of her soccer team. At least she was supposed to. They were focused, at first. But as the game wore on, the girls seemed more interested in working on a dance routine. My daughter participated, but eventually wandered off, choosing to spin underneath some low hanging trees instead. That’s so her style. Blissfully lost in her own world. Enjoying her life, expressing this joy through song and dance. I love watching her, whether it’s her dancing or her swinging ferociously. Her ability to escape the worries that I know school places on her, to forget her squabbles with her siblings, is inspiring. She knows how to enjoy life, how to appreciate the sun and the beauty of nature. She sees the world for the glorious gift that it is.

We are admonished to become as little children in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven. We are to trust completely in God, Our Father, knowing that He will provide for us, meeting our every need, sometimes in ways that better suit us than we can ever realize. We put our faith in Him and are not disappointed. The love and protection we come to recognize leads to trust and appreciation. It is truly a parent-child relationship. There is a peace that children have. Especially children who rest easy in the comfort of their parents’ love and protection.  There is a freedom and ease to their life; they bounce about, with few worries. What keeps us, as adults, from imitating, or seeking, this freedom? This ease? I have a never ending list of chores in my head; I rush from one task to the next. Being responsible, making sure that meals are made, the house is clean, the laundry is done. All of these are important, necessary tasks, much like school is for my children, so where is my peace? Where is my joy?

It’s a fine tightrope mothers walk. Finding that balance between Martha and Mary. There’s always so much that needs to be done, and yet these moments, these gifts from God are fleeting. And I admit, I was always sympathetic to Martha’s plight, dinner doesn’t make itself, and laundry doesn’t end up done, no matter how long you wait. It’s part of being an adult, balancing responsibilities and caring for those who depend on you. Still, we are called to be like children in relation to God. And what do children do? They delight in the world. They are free and uninhibited with their joy. I came to sit and write, at the scheduled time. I have a few minutes to drink my coffee now that the vacuuming is done before it’s time to work out. Then it will be lunch, with naptime and some school time following. My eighteen month old daughter followed me into the office, which isn’t unusual; she wanted to sit in my lap, which too isn’t unusual. And I held her, which I am very used to. But she wasn’t content to just sit, she wanted to snuggle and snuggle in such a way that her head rested on my shoulder. She’s a little thing, but still, both arms were required to hold her so. And I did. And I willed myself to not think of deadlines, of how I could move her just so and still type. I just sat and let her hair tickle my nose, her hands play with my shirt, her body melt into my arms, letting me know she was ready to sleep. But I didn’t rush her to bed. I delighted.

I delighted in the beautiful baby who is growing too fast. I delighted in the silence of the office, the bent heads engrossed in their schoolwork. I just let myself melt into the moment, pushed those worries out of my mind, even if just for a second. It is a beautiful life we lead, even if that beauty is mired in diapers, sticky hand prints, cranky children, who are always hungry. And just as we can miss the glorious sunset painting the colorful leaves as we rush from work to the numerous sports practices that await our children, we can miss the beauty of the chaotic world about us. Not that we don’t see it, but we don’t appreciate it in the moment. I’m sure that Martha was well aware how magnificent it was that Jesus was sitting there in her home. She was doing her best to keep the visit magnificent, cooking and caring for the needs of everyone, without help. And, at first glance, it seems like Jesus is ungrateful for her efforts. But He was just teaching, using her desire to love and serve to remind her of the why. The why we are so busy. It is to care for those we love, to provide for them. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the work itself, the cooking and cleaning, without remembering that it is to better care for those we love.

Martha was frustrated by the amount of work that she had to do, Mary was enjoying and delighting in the presence of those she loved. It can seem like a chore, a never ending to do list, the care and nurturing of our families. We can lose their faces to the stacks of dishes and unmade beds. So it is those moments when we let it go, we stop and delight, in which our Marthas and Marys meld. Our desires to serve and give are rejuvenated by our love and delight in those we want to give so much to. Let go of those cares, for just a moment. Let the beauty, the joy, the peace engulf you. Let your heart spin and twirl in the love that overwhelms you. Be childlike in your delight of the wonders in life. And then it’s back to work. But maybe it will seem just a little less like work.


Rebekah Andrews is a 2001 graduate of Thomas Aquinas college. Married to Dave since 2001, Rebekah is mother to five children. She home schools her children and works for an online school. There is no spare time for hobbies because all five children play various sports, mostly soccer. Rebekah also writes at Moments in Mediocre Motherhood.

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2 thoughts on “Mary-ing Our Marthas”

  1. Avatar

    So, Martha should have just shut her stupid mouth and kept up with the coffee and sandwiches, while her prettier sister gets to entertain the important guest? No, there is no way to make Jesus into anything but an utter ass in this story, which is only ever used to make women feel guilty. No one, for example, ever tells men that they need to step up with the housework so that their wives and daughters can be Mary. It’s just one more “get back in the kitchen and smile while you’re at it, moron” tales.

    1. Avatar
      Patricia Downing

      What an extraordinary interpretation of this biblical story. Mary is prettier (we are not told that) and Jesus is an ass. And you are very angry. Pity. It is not about coffee and sandwiches. It is about being open and receptive to Christ. It is about a thirst so far beyond a thirst for coffee, a thirst to drink in the love and truth that flow from our Savior.

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