The Better Thing

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

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

Once again, I set off to write the next article from ‘my list’, and get led to write about something else altogether. So be it. I think a lot of what the Holy Spirit is working on me about right now is obedience, so off I go!

I am definitely as a ‘task driven’ person. Getting ‘things done’ is something in the work world I’m pretty good at. Where I can struggle is putting people, not tasks first. This is something the Holy Spirit is constantly working on me about. I’m, obviously ‘Martha’. My wife, on the other hand, is definitely a ‘Mary’. She will drop everything to spend time visiting with a neighbor, help the kids (who are older now), and just spend time with folks in general. I do love visiting with people, listening to their stories and sharing my life. But not in too extended of ‘doses’ – quiet contemplation and walks are my thing. Opposites do attract. Thank God (literally) for my wife, for without her I would likely be a ‘happy hermit’!

So, while my ‘to do’ lists; a) ‘get things done’, b) have likely found the ‘pain points’ and have categorized them as what needs to be done first, c) typically get things done ‘on time’ and ‘in budget’. It can be a very lonely life of ‘doing’, and not ‘being’?

This point is brought home this weekend with an extra heavy dose as my wife dropped everything and found a way to fly across the country to visit with our oldest for a few days. Now granted, someone had to stay home to take care of the animals (and get work done etc…. ☹). I feel terribly lonely and feel like I’m missing out on the best things in life? Like spending time with our kids.

So while I’m penning the letter to myself (actually feeling a bit sorry for myself I guess?). There may be other ‘Martha’s’ out there who are in the same boat? For one reason or another, how we were raised, our genetics or ‘whatever’! We became this way – doers. While others are more – ‘livers’, they are living life to the fullest, always putting people first. Both are needed in this world I think? We can help one another.

I think us ‘doers’ may be coming from a space of ‘if I don’t do this, who will?’ Many of us may have been raised in tumultuous house holds where we may have had to become the ‘doers’ as our parents had ‘abandoned ship’ in one form or another? That fear of ‘my, or our families world will fall into chaos’ if I am not a doer I think maybe floating around in our consciousness?

That doesn’t mean I can’t change. Maybe not wholesale changes overnight, but bit-by-bit making it a priority to ‘get out there’ and meet people, and more actively be in their lives (not just my own family’s life).

Now before I get down too hard on the Martha’s out there (me). I keep a couple of our saving graces in mind. First, we do get things done. It was after all, Martha’s home. She and her sister, along with her brother Lazarus kept the household going. Two, Martha’s brother Lazarus was seriously ill, for how long we don’t know. But being a caregiver for someone is definitely a ‘task’ that needs to be done. Third, Martha was a generous woman. She invited Jesus and his disciples to come stay with them, even though she knew that would quadruple her work load. I wouldn’t be surprised if Martha wasn’t also the primary wage earner in the household on top of everything else? In short, Martha a) got things done, b) was generous and c) took care of others, starting with her family first. All of these are good things.

Where us ‘taskers’ can go astray I think? Is starting to focus too much on our ‘to do’ lists, at the expense of others, and ourselves. Second, is becoming ‘wed to our to do lists’, we start to lose sight that God, not us, are the providers. Martha may have owned the home, but it was God’s provisions that brought the home to her families lives in the first place. Third, is the matter of faith. Does our faith lie in our ‘to do’ lists? Or does it lie with God to adjust our lives, and our ‘assigned tasks’ as God sees fit? And finally, the ultimate thing really. Is that our tasks, should never come at the expense of our relationship with God, ourselves, or those around us.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed …. Mary has chosen what is better…”

Elaine