Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Even before I knew I was a Christian, I knew I was a Martha. I was sitting in my van in a suburban parking lot when I read the story of the two sisters from Bethany.  I understood intellectually that when the Lord shows up at your house, the only right way to be with Him – to be with anyone who shows up at your house, really – is to do what Mary did.  Sit down with Him. Open to Him. Listen to Him. Love Him.

I also knew for someone with my overachieving, perfectionist nature, this was going to be tough.

Since then, God has given me many opportunities to choose what Christ called “the better part.”  In fact, I get a new chance every day — that’s how often He shows up at my house.  He shows up as two chubby-cheeked, shining-eyed three year olds trailing the fragrance of the sweet and holy. They’ve missed their mommy while I’ve been at work.

And am I present to them? Do I get down to hug them when I walk in the door?  Do I sit down and do a puzzle with them?

Of course not. I bustle!  I tidy up!  I get dinner on the table!  And I snap anyone who’s not on the program.

But after the kids have gone to bed and the kitchen is clean, I wish I hadn’t caused that tantrum by rushing my daughter through her bath. At work, I sit at my desk and hear the abusive, negative echo of the mean mommy voice I used when I hustled everybody out the door in the morning.

So yesterday I resolved to be Mary for a night. I wouldn’t get “distracted with many tasks,” even if it meant the house was a mess and the kids got in bed at 10.

When I came home, I hugged and kissed everyone. Then I got out of the kitchen, letting my husband cook bacon and fish sticks while I sat down at the train table and hung out with our twins.  I gave the kids a long bath and let them play an insanely delightful (to them) game of pretending they were blanket-wrapped kittens afterward.  I didn’t rush anyone.

And you know what?  They got to bed earlier than they have all week.

And I don’t know about all the dishes I’ve cleaned and toys I’ve put away over the years, but I know that sitting down with my children last night, opening to them, loving them, will not be taken from me.

How about you? Do you ever struggle to choose Mary’s “better part?”

By: Faith Rookie

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  1. 1

    Isn’t it interesting that God included this little event in the Bible? Right there with all of the incredible miracles He performed and His death and resurrection? Nothing spectacular really happened here, but it still ended up in His Word. It’s certainly no coincidence, but I’ve always been fascinated by that fact… because He knew there would be women all over the world, throughout history, that would struggle with this. And I love that He loves us enough to help us understand why Mary was doing what was right by ignoring the distracting tasks and focusing on Him. And honestly? All of my most favorite moments with my family have always happened when I’ve chosen to ignore the other “stuff”.
    Great post! :)

  2. 3

    Great post Faith! God has been nudging me about getting my priorities straight- here’s another nudge!

  3. 4

    Yes! I have long struggled with my Martha personality, but God has been gently working on me and I am beginning to learn to live on the Mary side of life – glad I’m not the only one working on that. Thanks for sharing! :0)

  4. 5

    This post spoke directly into my heart and felt like loving conviction from a God who sees me at my best and my worst. How I long to be Mary, and how easy it is to fall into the driven nature of Martha when it comes to my beautiful children. I will definitely keep the wisdom in this post close to my heart as I minister to them today. And I will be a more patient and loving Mommy in the process. Thanks!

  5. 7

    I don’t have kiddos but I can still relate. And I love how Jesus says what Mary has chosen can’t be taken from her. And isn’t that what all my rushing is about–so that I can be good enough not to have things taken from me (love, esteem, etc.)? And there Jesus is offering it as a free gift that can never be retracted. Yay! Thanks for this encouraging Monday morning reminder…

    • 8

      Holley, your comment made me reflect on how all rushing/striving is really about trying to “attain” what has already been given…and we take ourselves so seriously! Thank you for the food for thought!

  6. 9

    I needed to hear this so badly today! You nailed everything perfectly. Oh that guilt!! We only get one chance with our children and when we waste precious moments it hurts. I have four kids 15, 10, 3 and 16mths…I love them more than words can say but I know for a fact I don’t show it enough! Thanks for the sweet reminder! God bless you!

  7. 10

    “And I don’t know about all the dishes I’ve cleaned and toys I’ve put away over the years, but I know that sitting down with my children last night, opening to them, loving them, will not be taken from me.”

    I love that. Thanks for the reminder…

  8. 11

    I needed this post today! I struggle with this a lot. I feel like if I am not constantly working then I am being lazy…slothfull….”idle”. I feel guilty if I’m not getting anything done. But I feel like I am missing so much with my four precious children. And really, who could ever be idle with young children? :)

    Thank you again for this post!

    • 12

      Sassy, where do you think that comes from? That guilt about not being in constant motion? It’s definitely a female thing; you don’t see many dads with that issue…I’d love to know your thoughts!

  9. 13

    That is awesome to think that God knew in His infinite wisdom that women all throughout time would struggle with this, so He put it in the Bible!
    I am definitely a Martha all the way. It is a personal struggle to put those things aside and sit at His feet.
    Thanks for this post!
    Bernice
    4 ways to be like the energizer bunny

  10. 14

    Faith, thanks for your beautifully written post. I struggle with being a Martha also. In fact, recently I took an online Monvee survey that tagged my biblical personality as Martha. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘I’m the one that would rather hang out in the kitchen.’ As I was talking this over with a friend, she brought something else to my attention that I continue to ponder. She asked me if I ever considered that Martha WANTED to be at Jesus’ feet, but felt like she SHOULD be preparing the food, etc. That characterizes my life so well…lots of “shoulds” which stops me from simply allowing myself to “be.” I love your reminder to me especially today in which my list is once again endless…

  11. 16
    Alejandra says:

    I can relate to this message so much! I love things to be ordered and planned and sometimes I just forget to cherish God’s blessings. I keep pondering on John 14:27 and remembering to have peace in my life as a priority.

  12. 18

    Faith,
    I am now a Grandma of 4 lovely children. I need this reminder, too, when they come to visit. My “Martha attitude” of always trying to get things perfect stops my loving interaction with my grandchildren. Although I do paint with them, go for walks and read stories – I could spend more relaxing time if I didn’t have to have everything “perfect”.
    I am finishing a children’s book based on Mary and Martha. One of the first Christian books I read was “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha world”.
    When my children were little I was Mary – I let the house go to play and do things with my children. I knew someday I would have lots of time to make it “perfect”. I enjoyed my time with my children growing up – now I have to remember to do the same with my grandchildren. Thanks for a wonderful post.
    Blessings to all the young moms out there. Enjoy them now.

  13. 20

    That is so encouraging!! Our time with our families is so precious. Thank you for this reminder.

  14. 21

    Great post, FR! Man, it can be so hard to do this! BUT, when we do, the time “lost” on messing with dishes and dust is exponentially gained in knowing we are depositing love and affirmation into these eternal souls. Perfect Monday morning post!

  15. 23

    This was just what I needed after a Martha-Meltdown at dinner with my 2 year old! I have to laugh because my hubby will call me Martha when I wallow in self pity. It is funny God is working on me in this time of unemployment but I am still discerning what direction to go. I haven’t had an interview in months but have been applying for positions. I’ve learned I love to cook. No matter what, I am thankful for this time to rediscover myself and what God wants me to do with the 2nd half of my life!

  16. 25

    Our pastor did a sermon on Martha and Mary this past Sunday, about how Mary chose “the one thing” that was most important. He did point out that later on (after Lazarus dies and is brought back to life), it appears that Martha may have adopted a Mary spirit to some extent. She’s still Martha, bustling about the house and preparing a meal, but she later does it without complaints or distractions. I am TOTALLY a Martha, but I’m trying to learn from Mary. At the same time, I’m still struggling with my list of things I “should” be doing, to remember that I need to spend time WITH Christ before I do something FOR Christ. I also enjoyed the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World-I read it a few years ago (before kids) and I may have to go back and read it again!

  17. 27

    Wow, I needed to hear this right now. I have been struggling with this in many areas of my life, without realizing this is what it was! I want to be Mary, but I am definitly Martha. I come home from work and want to play and enjoy my children, but need to fix supper and clean up the house and do all of those things. I always take the time to hug them and love on them and tell them how much i’ve missed them. But then the race is on…
    Daddy deals with bath time, and everything in between seems like insanity.
    I want to spend time with my Lord, but when do I find that time? I want to spend time with my husband, but when do I find that time? I want to spend time individually with each of my daughters (1 1/2 and 3) but when do I find that time? Between work and trying to keep the house up and keep a family running and do what needs to be done, I just don’t know how to balance it all. I think Martha takes over and Mary just hides and tries to poke her head out once in a while…

    • 28

      Wow, Karen, you totally captured it: the race is on. It’s such a struggle to give the “best of yourself” to your family; so often work gets the best of me and my family gets the scraps!

  18. 29

    Hi my name is J. and I am a recovering Martha!

    I completely understand this so much. I have to work hard to be a Mary. Some days are more trying than others. When I find myself being Martha I am ashamed. Old habits are hard to break, but worth keep trying.

  19. 31

    Argh, this is me except that I don’t work outside the home and so have all that more time to ignore them and hush them and hurry them when there’s no reason to hurry and then feel guilty about it all night long. It does always feel so good to sit and take a peek into their world-why don’t we remember that longer than that time we’re sitting right there with them?

    I wrote on this exact same topic a little over a week ago. Take a read-I’d love to hear if you have any more insight…http://wanderingstill.blogspot.com/2011/02/lesson-for-class.html