I taught public school for eleven years. During that time, these were just some of the jobs I had:
Relay for Life Team Captain. Who knew that volunteering to help meant you were the leader? Not a second-year-teacher, apparently. Reading Department Chair. Beta Club Sponsor. Academic Bowl Coach. Cheerleading Coach. Don’t you have to be able to at least do a cartwheel for this? Hospital-Homebound Tutor. Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Coach.
I’ve been involved in the same small church for twenty years, and the story there is the same. Worship leader. When-there’s-a-choir director. Sunday school teacher. Missions advocate. Wedding and funeral singer. Camp and retreat director. There are a million more, but I’m getting tired even looking at my own list…
I can’t even count how many times people in my life have asked me, “Suzy, why don’t you slow down?” Ironically, they are the same ones who ask me to help and appreciate my volunteer spirit.
I’ve tried slowing down. It’s almost impossible for me. I told my brother that I must have four times the average number of thoughts in a single day. Even if I’m lying down, my mind is running a constant to-do list.
You can see it. They can see it. I can see it.
No one could possibly do all the things I feel I must do and still do them well. As the old adage goes, I often find myself being “Jack of all trades but master of none.” There was a woman in the Bible who I’m sure could have related to me. Martha.
She always gets a bad rap from those who would say to be more like Mary.
I appreciate worship. I love it and have led it for years. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has yelled at times, “Why am I the only one doing all the work?” Most times the rage has been pointed inward, but at other times, I’ve let it spill over onto those “Marys” sitting there hanging out while I cook or clean or break my back.
Maybe they’re worshipping or taking time for the important things, but all I see is one thing. Laziness. Was that too forward? No, hopefully you were hoping for some honesty and relatability in this post.
I’m not going to stop being Martha. My husband has earned the nickname “Crockpot” because it seems we can never leave the house for a function without my asking him to carry his namesake.
But if I am destined to be Martha, how can I use it to my good? What practical advice can I take away from the Martha vs. Mary saga? Let’s read their story first from Luke 10 (NKJV):
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’ “
Here are some practical takeaways I get from the story.
1. There are two distinct types of people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I have very worshipful moments. My sister-in-law Rachel is a Mary, but she has some powerful serving moments. But we are not the same person. It doesn’t matter how I try to be a reflective, thoughtful, even-tempered Mary. I’m not one.
I’m a doer on most days. I just have to learn to do what adds to the kingdom, and over-extended busyness is not it. I can work and work, but I don’t want to get to the judgment seat one day and see that all of it amounted to no souls being saved.
2. It’s OK to be a Martha; you just have to temper your gifts. Martha is not a curse word. If Jesus hadn’t appreciated His friend’s cooking and serving, He wouldn’t have been in her house. But she was treating her Lord and Savior rudely. She wasn’t paying attention to Him at all, and she was asking Him to break up a fight of all things. And we are left with a Bible story that makes her look like a witch.
I wish I could say I didn’t relate to a lack of hospitality or putting my guests in the crossfire of my agitated mood. I wish that, but I can’t. Martha teaches me that I don’t want either of those traits to be my legacy.
3. The third takeaway is this. There are many good things, and then there is the best thing. Cooking is good. Cleaning is good. Planning and organizing and working are good. But worship is better. Not just better — best. When you and I lay down the tendency to be spread thin and instead embrace the arms that were spread out on the cross, all our work and all our plans will start to mean something.
I don’t want to be spread thin. I want to be a Martha Suzy with a purpose. As Psalm 127 says:
Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
Accept the gift of rest today, beloved. Let’s not do our work in vain.
Want more Suzy? Stop by and visit her brand new blog where she is taking a year to write about her journey from independence to Jesus-dependence.