Being Mary in a Martha World

It happened. Two years ago, when we had our annual Third of July party, the food arrived. So did the guests. During the whole evening, questions ran through my head. Are we running out of drink? Time to do more lemonade. And what about the food? Do we need to put some more out? Are our guests having a good time? Is there anything else I’m missing?

By the time the party ended, I realized something.

I’d been so worried about our guests having a good time that I’d missed talking to people, one of the very reasons why we had this party in the first place.

Rather than being Mary, I’d been Martha.

Who are Mary and Martha?

Some of you may be wondering, “Who’s Mary, and who’s Martha?”

The story’s in the Bible. Read Luke 10:38-42. It’s short but good. Jesus was coming to visit. During that time in Judah, word had gotten around about Jesus. He was known as a healer to many, and He’d become friends with two sisters and their brother, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

One day, they all decided to host Jesus at their home. The sisters made preparations for His visit. As you can imagine, such preparations were big and detailed. After all, hospitality was and still is a big deal in that part of the world.

I imagine Martha was a take-charge kind of person with a gift of service and hospitality. She saw a need and filled it. Quickly. Some might even call her a Type-A personality. Most likely, she had the same expectations for those who were helping her, including Mary, her sister. Part of me wonders if Martha was the older sister.

And Mary, not so much Type A. Most likely, she was the mellow sister. She found sitting at the feet of Jesus and soaking up His company the most important part of the party.

This got to Martha, and she complained to Jesus, most likely hoping He’d agree with her. I’m sure His response surprised her. “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 10:41b-42, NIV).

Jesus wanted Martha to understand that Mary’s priority—those in relationship with her—were more important than the other, myriad distractions in life.

What can we learn from Mary and Martha?

My life has so many distractions. Work. Social media. Commuting. Name it, and I’m distracted by it. The list can go on and on.

When I get distracted, I tend to miss the most important thing in life. Relationships. How much time do I spend distracted by small things that could have been spent with my husband, family, or friends?

Once that time is gone, I can’t get it back.

What can we do about being Mary in a Martha world?

It’s not easy. I get that. We do have things that require our attention. Every one of us does. But what we need to avoid is letting those things completely draw our time away from those things we claim matter most.

That usually requires making a conscious choice.

When I’m in a meeting at work, will I look at my phone, set it down, or—better yet—put it away?

If I spent the evening writing at Starbucks, will I then come home and write some more? Or will I hang out with Steve and our dogs?

We need to remember that God made us for relationships, and letting them falter due to our busyness and distraction costs everyone something.

As for the party, we had it again week before last. This year, I made the conscious decision not to sweat the details to death but to relax and enjoy the gift we had that night—time with those we care about.

Question: When did you find yourself so distracted that you didn’t truly enjoy those people who mean the most to you?

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