Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Too much Martha and not enough Mary?

In the Gospel of Luke, it is recorded that Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary.  From the time he arrived, Martha was distracted with preparations things to do to care for her guest, while Mary simply sits at the Lord's feet.  Martha is upset at having to do all the work on her own and tells Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Luke records that Jesus's response is that Martha is worried about and focusing on all the wrong things, while Mary is solely focused on what is truly important, her relationship with Christ.  Evidently Martha understood His words because she, Mary, and their brother Lazarus would go on to become close friends of Jesus.

In his new book Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge (@johneldredge) describes Jesus's response to Martha as disruptively honest but mercifully gracious.  Martha apparently wanted a relationship with Jesus, as she invited Him to her house.  But, then she is too distracted to enjoy His company.  Perhaps Martha's love language is acts of service, and she feels she is expressing affection for the Lord by doing so many things.  Or perhaps, like many people, she is uncomfortable without having something to do, preferring the exhaustion of business to the peace of a more narrow focus.

For some, being hyper-occupied to the point of overwhelm with things to do and places to go is a way to gain social status.  We are impressed by those who can multitask or who put in long hours of labor, though it may sacrifice their health or relationships.  For others, busyness is a way to avoid something painful or uncomfortable, because with so wide a focus, no one thing can have much impact on them.  They quickly move on to something else to think about, often leaving a problem to fester or issue to remain unresolved.

Mary, in contrast, seems to easily be able to turn off or turn away from all the other potential distractions from their guest and give Him all her attention.  And Jesus believes this to be the higher honor, because he cares more about Mary and Martha's hearts, their spirits, more than their meal they'll share or how clean the house is.  How easy it is for Mary and Jesus to come into a relationship when they are focused on each other and what is truly important.

I was recently challenged by my most trusted adviser that I have had too much Martha in me recently, and not enough Mary.  Focusing too much on things to do, places to go, other voices to listen too, I've been distracted away from those things most important to me.  I've forgotten that not everyone is impressed with busyness, and sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to make them the sole focus of your attention.

Question:  How do you keep from becoming too much of a Martha?

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