Mary Heart in a Martha World

I’m doing a little local drama this Easter.  I’m  Mary Magdalene in a little Maunday Thursday pageant about the “Other Twelve Disciples,” those being the women who followed Jesus and were there until the end. 

This week during the read through I was struck by another Mary:  Mary the sister of Lazarus.  Mary the sister of Martha.  Mary who sat at Jesus’ feet, soaking Him in, while Martha bustled about worried and anxious about many things.  I’ve always identified more with Martha, as I often feel worried and anxious about many things, myself.  It hit me though, as we were reading our parts that I might have a little Mary in me, afterall. 

The description offered in this little play categorizes Mary as “One who seemed to be busier internally than she appeared to be externally.”   That’s me.  That’s me all over.  “Bustling around the house was not one of her higher priorities” when Jesus was around, the script says. 

(It strikes me a day after first writing all this, that I’m basing all this thinking not on scripture so much, but on the words in this play.  However, as I look at the bits and pieces that we have written about Mary in the Bible, I think the play’s description might have been accurate.)

The thing is, while I’ve been aware of this constant internal chatter presenting itself more often than, “Busy hands,” I’ve had a hard time seeing this as a positive thing.  I have a hard time cleaning my house.  I know we all do, but I put it off, and put it off.  The things I want to do engage my mind and my relational muscle more than any industrial inclination.  I’m involved with many things, but I get into them by being a ‘think tank,’ an ‘idea girl.’  I love theories of math and science, but I can’t do the nuts and bolts of an equation to save my life.  I live in my head and sometimes…  often…  that gets in the way of my getting things done.  When company comes, I bustle and clean–at the last-minute–to try to make my home presentable.  Always though, I get to a point where I say, “They’re coming to see ME.  The rest of the clutter will have to stay put.”  While company is visiting, I have a hard time maintaining any semblance of cleanliness that I created because I pour my energy into spending time with my guests, and I can never figure out how the ‘cleaning maintenance stuff’ is supposed to get done with people around.  OR alternatively, I put so much effort into trying to be Martha-like against my nature with perfect meals and perfect home presentation that I  make everyone more stressed out.  That’s me.

It drives some people crazy.  It drives my husband crazy.  He’s a busy guy.  He’s always putzing, tinkering, cleaning, creating, doing.  He doesn’t have much patience when I don’t get things done because I’m so busy in idea-realm.  It drove my parents nuts.  My mother had at least learned to be a Martha after being shamed by key people in her life in regards to housework.  She implored me to learn the skills involved too…  the importance of it those skills though always did get lost with the stuff in my head or in my relationships that seemed to me to take precedence. 

I’ve labeled myself with words like ‘lazy,’ and ‘sloth,’ and maybe at times it really is a spirit of laziness that keeps me from getting things done.  I have a constant, nagging, internal mantra of, ‘Why can’t I get it together,” when I look at the chores that haven’t gotten done in a given day, or my kids’ dirty faces in public.  I often enhance this mantra with the butt-kicker of comparison:  “Why can’t I get it together like her?  Her kids are always neat and tidy.  Her house is always clutter-free and smells like vanilla and apple-cinnamon.  She’s able to juggle so much!” 

But Jesus didn’t do that to Mary.  He didn’t shame Mary for inactivity or mention the dust bunnies  left on her side of the cottage.  He didn’t shake her by the shoulders and tell her to snap out of her internal thought reverie.  He didn’t implore her to do FlyLady so that by unearthing the discipline to do housework and de-cluttering her world she could, “Finally Love Your(Her)self (though I really DO love FlyLady).”  Instead, he held her up as an example.  He exalted  her for choosing the ‘better thing,’ for soaking in His presence.  He recognized her for valuing those present even if that meant they had to order from Bethany’s local pizza joint instead of having a four-course meal.

And this gives me hope.  If Jesus valued Mary’s internal churning and presence to those present, maybe he values mine too.  Maybe he even delights in those parts of me.  I’m sure he equally delighted in Martha’s service to him.  He knew that her work came form a  heart of love–a love that wanted to honor him in her work, but he would not let her devalue Mary’s path of honoring him just becuase it was different than hers. 

So rather than beat myself up for the messes that pile up while the internal hum drones on, I’m going to try to see God’s delight in me.  I’ll continue to try to better myself and clean my home, don’t get me wrong.  But, hopefully I’ll give myself a little more grace. 

I have seen the book, “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World,” in  bookstores many times.  I’ve never read it.  I always thought the idea was that we supposedly wanted to BE Martha when we SHOULD be Mary.  That in my head is a double should.  But maybe some of my day-to-day frustration comes from the fact that it really *is* hard when you ARE a Mary in a Martha world.  I don’t fit in to the achievement and activity oriented world of women.  I’m a thinker.  I’m a listener.  And that isn’t something to should myself out of.  Even when I have a sink full of dishes.

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3 thoughts on “Mary Heart in a Martha World

  1. What a great post! It’s wonderful to know that there is someone else out there who is a Mary in a Martha world, someone who puts off housework while thinking about the things of God and runs around like mad to get the house clean for company. Thanks.

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