You’ve heard the story of Mary & Martha, right? You know, in the Bible where the two sisters invite Jesus into their home? Like any good hostess would, one of them hurries to prepare a meal for Jesus. Martha spends time in the kitchen getting things together so that she can be a good host. Her sister however, settles on the living room floor with Jesus. Sitting at his feet, Mary makes herself comfortable as she listens to every Word He has to share with her. And then we know the rest — Martha gets flustered and frustrated that her sister is not helping her prepare this meal for Jesus. She confronts her sister in the living room, asking her to get up and help her, but Jesus steps into the conversation. “Actually, Martha, Mary knows what’s more important. She’s been spending time with me, and really you should be doing that too.”
A lot of times we read this story and immediately identify with either one of these women. We may feel like we are Martha, the one who spends life as a busybody, hustling down our to-do list as quickly as possible. All of our time is spent serving the people around us, but we don’t respect ourselves enough to stop to let God feed our soul. Or sometimes we feel as if we are Mary, pausing any project just so that we can sit at Jesus’ feet. We are always looking for opportunities to slow down, to find rest in Jesus, & ultimately to know Him more.
For most of my life, I’ve felt like I was a Mary. I’ve never really been a task-oriented type of person. Anyone who knows me would definitely tell you that I’m a bit of a relationship-driven person. I’m the type of person who can really work a room & network with people quickly & on a higher level. For me, the art of conversation just comes a bit easier. I’m definitely not perfect at it — I can be awkward at times, I’m a bit goofy, & I’m definitely learning when to shut up & listen. But in general, I will gladly throw my task list out of the window if it means that I’m able to build others up & make them feel valued in some way.
In this story, it’s pretty obvious that Jesus wants Martha to learn from Mary’s actions. In this particular scenario, Mary is the one who has made the better choice. Jesus wanted Martha to slow down & notice Mary’s teachable heart. There are a lot of things we can learn from this story & from these sisters. But I can tell you firsthand that over the years as a Mary, I’ve really learned just how much I need a Martha in my life. I need a sister beside me that will keep me grounded, focused, organized, & best of all, motivated. Sure, Martha learned a lot from watching Mary’s devoted relationship to Jesus & relentless pursuit of wisdom. But Mary learned a lot from Martha too:
So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. . . she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when Mary heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.
This time, Martha is the sister who runs out to meet Jesus. She makes the decision to pursue a relationship with her Father while Mary stays back. But, being a good sister, she realizes how much Mary needs her in that moment. She needed Martha to grab her by the arm, & walk with her to Jesus’ feet.
Sometimes in life we will need a little push to approach our Father. We’ll need our Mary to remind us to slow down & remember what matters the most in life, or our Martha to walk with us & motivate us when we lose sight of our purpose. Other times we will be the one running towards God with tremendous enthusiasm & passion. But in these moments we have to remember that there may be someone lagging behind. We may need to turn back for our sister.
Where are you in this story? Has your Martha come back for you? Is there a Mary in your life who can remind you to slow down? I believe that this is what true sisterhood looks like. We can’t just surround ourselves with people who are exactly like us. We may want to, but that’s not how we’ll learn or grow. Our sisterhood needs to consist of our own group of Marys and Marthas. Women who will challenge us, learn from us, and come back for us.