Sometimes I feel so “Martha” like…and I do not mean Martha Stewart. My type of Martha-ing is being a grouch, having a “why is it always up to me?” expression plastered on my face, or my personal favorite…sighing loudly and often. You know the Martha I am talking about. In what I consider the hardest bible story to understand, Martha runs around doing all the work while her sister Mary (probably the younger of the two, but that is pure conjecture on my part) lounges on the floor at Jesus’ feet listening to His stories and generally having a great time soaking in the wisdom of our Redeemer. And when Martha sighs, complains, and feels put out because she is tired, what does Jesus do? He tells her to act like Mary – OUCH! That had to hurt!
This is why growing up in my family we would hurl one distinct phrase whenever one of us started complaining how hard they worked in comparison to someone else… we would tell that person to “Stop being a Martha!” Complain about doing too many chores – you were a Martha. Moan because you had to iron while the others watched TV – you were being a Martha. If you had to stay home and babysit Jimmy, the baby of the family, while your other siblings went out and had fun – you were a Martha!
Do not misunderstand me…I was usually the one doing the taunting, calling my sisters Martha, and not the other way around. In fact, from my perspective as a middle child, being part of a large family was great. I could sneak under our parent’s radar, something I did often.
If I didn’t want to do something such as mow the lawn, pull the weeds, or hang the clothes, I pulled the “I don’t think I’m big enough to do that” card out, and presto – the job went to my older brother and sister! Or, if my parents wanted someone to pick up the toys, stack the dishes, or set the table I would pull out the “Isn’t it time the little ones learned how to do that” card. Nine times out of ten, one of those would work and I could blithely go on my way. Compared to my two sisters Sharon and Jeannie, one older and one younger, my Martha-days were not often.
Then the big change occurred. I got married and had four wonderful and unique children. I became the “stay at home mom”, the “I’ll volunteer for anything Mom”, the “I’m happy if you do it my way Mom.” Since my husband travelled extensively, I began to relate to Martha in ways I never had before. I worked hard to keep a clean house, and no one appreciated it. I spent days doing laundry, and they couldn’t even put them away. I began to appreciate Martha’s feelings of self-pity and resentment.
Slowly but surely, I became a (gasp) Martha!
To be honest, even with my children grown and out of the house, my Martha-side continues overriding my Mary-side. My husband just can’t seem to clean the kitchen the way I want it done, make the bed to my specifications, or organize the files they way they should be organized. In other words, he isn’t doing it My Way!
That is why when Lent 2011 began I resolved to do something positive. I am going to pray He guides me in my quest to be a Mary, and to temper my Martha behaviors – especially the “I know best” attitude I usually convey to my loved ones. I will listen to what Jesus is trying to teach me, just as Mary did so long ago.
I will not worry about the minuscule details of my adult children’s lives. I will be there when they need me, but I do not want to know everything when it comes to who they are seeing, their squabbles with each other, or which venue they plan to visit on a Friday night in Boston. I will try harder to place my trust in the Lord, and leave the worrying to Him. He has much broader shoulders than me, and He implores us to not “worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matt. 6:34)
I am ready to rest at His feet.
I will also try to temper my tendency to pout and stomp about the house when my “better half” decides to spend the evening doing office work. Instead, I will take those hours as a blessing from Him. I will sit down without guilt and do something that will bring me satisfaction…even if it is going to bed an hour earlier with a cup of hot cocoa, cookies, and a good book. Maybe I can regain perspective, and in the process become more thankful for a spouse with character, who is well respected, and who knows that a job worth doing is worth doing right.
I want to face the moments of my days when I am buried under a mountain of self-doubt, debt, and despair as a Mary! I will take a deep breath, close my eyes, and picture my life bereft of all that I possess. I will remember that every moment of my life is a gift from God and everything I have has been made exclusively for me… my husband, my parents, my children, my grandchild, my friends, and yes – even my siblings. All He asks in return is for me to love Him.
Being a Martha means my thoughts are centered on me. Becoming more like a Mary will center my thoughts always on Him…and that is where my thoughts need to be. Only then will I find peace.
Copyright 2011 Carol S. Bannon