Continued from yesterday.
Mary of Bethany
We all know the story of Mary and Martha and their sisterly spat on which was most important—preparing a meal or listening to Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42) Jesus said that Mary made the best choice—to sit at His feet.
But how does that work when I have laundry to fold, dishes to wash, Christmas rolls to bake, and bathrooms to clean? Reading my Bible all day just isn't an option.
From other Scriptures in the Bible, we learn that Mary and Martha's house was a regular meeting place for Jesus and his disciples. I assume that both sisters spent many hours hosting guests. The fact that Martha was irked to find Mary shirking her duties on this occasion tells me that usually Mary was right beside Martha chopping vegetables and washing mugs.
Service can be a way to worship God.
Jesus did not condemn Martha for serving food—just pointed out her bad attitude. Martha was “troubled” in her service. Maybe if Martha would have spent time listening to Jesus with Mary she would have served with joy. Gordon MacDonald said that “the inner world of the spiritual must govern the outer world of activity.”
Each day I make decisions on how I use my time. I need to choose between many good options to find the best, especially at Christmas. There are not enough hours in the season to do everything that I want to do.
Last summer I repainted a few rooms and discovered just how much Stuff we had accumulated. After painting, I added back to the room only what I deemed necessary or meaningful. We ended up getting rid of some furniture and many boxes of books, and rehung only half the wall decorations. Less Stuff gave a feeling of freedom, cleanliness, and quiet. (Though with six children our home isn't often clean or quiet.)
Could I do the same with my schedule? What would my December look like if I shook out the calendar, dumped out all the holiday traditions, quit listening to the voices of obligation/guilt/expectation, and then added back to December only what was necessary, meaningful, and worshipful?
Does it mean I would quit baking Christmas cookies, throw out the candles, and skip the family reunion? Not necessarily. Those things can be part of living out my life of service and worship. I can bake cookies for a fun activity with my children. I can light a candle on the table and invite others to join in the warmth of shared conversation. I can attend a reunion and strengthen family ties. But I can also decide that none of those things will be priorities this year because, for whatever reason, God is calling me to lay aside this particular Martha activity to make time and energy for Mary worship.
Looking at my priorities may mean clearing the schedule of some enjoyable activities to make time for what is truly important. If my fun day of shopping makes me too tired for the church caroling in the evening, I haven't chosen well. If I spend my afternoon chasing the children out of the kitchen so I can create a lovely meal for guests, I have Martha's troubled spirit. When I'm racing the clock, my voice sharpens, my chest tightens, and I know my priorities are skewed. Except for rare times of true emergency, I don't think God meant us to live in panic mode.
I have a tendency to accumulate traditions. We make gingerbread houses one year and think we need to do it every year. But time is limited and to keep the schedule (and me) sane, I must eliminate something every time I add an activity.
I can also learn from Mary and Martha to accept others who have made different choices. What is overwhelming to me might be relaxing to another. I love that we are not cookie-cutter gingerbread ladies, and I want to enjoy each woman's talents without comparison or judgment.
Look for the final part of this article tomorrow.