Sunday, 13 June 2021
Christ in the house of Martha and Mary, painting by Joachim Beuckelaer, ca. 1533-1575
Somewhere around the globe, 2021
Table of Contents
- 1 Somewhere around the globe, 2021
- 2 The little village of Bethany, 33 Anno Domini
- 3 Somewhere around the globe, 2011
- 4 The little village of Bethany, 33 Anno Domini
- 5 Full but not filled, best and yet not good enough
- 6 The little village of Bethany, 33 Anno Domini
- 7 Martha vs Maria
- 8 The only One we all need
- 9 To work and be satisfied
Her smart watch beeps. It’s 5.20 in the morning. She yawns and tries to decide whether she needs to get up or not. But then she remembers today is Tuesday, she has tons to do today. Sighing she gets up from her bed and proceeds downstairs.
Twenty minutes before lunch. She runs to grab the key car and rush to the supermarket. She needs to make a quick grocery trip – no bread for lunch! Oh, why did the zoom meeting have to be extended! And why did she promise to help with the parents committee at school? Now she has even more to do. So much to do and so little time!
It’s the weekend. The children are screaming around her room like crazy Indians. She sighs. Where does her husband go? He has promised to look after the children for her. Does she have to do it all by herself? She remembers that dinner she hasn’t started. She remembers the laundry, the mess in the kitchen and all obligations that are waiting for her. She tries to concentrate on the writing in front of her. The telephone rings, her assistant asks her something about the deadline. She holds her breath and bites her lips, mumbling something as an answer. She wants to cry, now, she wants to cry. NOW.
The little village of Bethany, 33 Anno Domini
She rushes the servants in the kitchen to do their work as fast as they can. The Lord is coming! It would be a disgrace to welcome the great Teacher in a messy house with no meals to eat. Why did they inform her about His coming at the last minute like this? And here are the new plates she bought in the market last week? Her sister! Her sister was the one who washed them last week. Where is she? Where is that silly girl, hiding in a moment like this?
Somewhere around the globe, 2011
She cries. She can not understand a thing. Her life is full of blessings! She has a successful husband, children who excel at school. She has her own career, leading women’s ministry. She wrote inspirational books for women, cultivating hundreds of millions of followers in her social media accounts. She’s well respected in her community. And yet she doesn’t feel happy. She’s exhausted and her life is far from being inspirational. She’s not happy yet…
The little village of Bethany, 33 Anno Domini
She cries, “where is my sister?” asks her to the women around her, who were busy kneading the dough, and preparing the fire to cook the lamb. Someone whispers in her ear that the sister is in the front room, sitting with the men listening to the Teacher speaking. Really? Now? Does my sister lose her mind??
She storms to the front room and sees with her own eyes the greatest absurdity: her beloved sister – instead of giving her a helping hand, she’s there sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
Holding her breath and trying not to bawl, she asks helplessly, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” No. She’s not happy. The Lord visits her in her own house. She just wants to give her best in hosting the Teacher – and yes, she has done her best! This should be a joyful day, the day to be happy because the Lord personally chooses her family to visit. But yet, she’s not happy. She’s not happy yet…
Full but not filled, best and yet not good enough
We live in a world that thirsts for gainings and recognition. In order to feel fulfilled, we try to reach a certain level of achievement in any aspect of life. We’re born with abilities, capabilities, talents that wait for us to use them into maximum levels. And honestly – we enjoy the compliments when we get to do it right. We love all the likes and hearts in our social media. The good assessment and salary raise.
These things boost our mood, lift up our energy and encourage us to do even better. We feel useful as a person, also for our family and community. And not the least important thing: as we love God the giver of our lives and our talents, we want to do our best for Him.
And yes, we want to do more, get more and go beyond our best! Achievement causes us to go for new challenges and opportunities. Hence the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” The more things we have accomplished, the more things we want to do. So we accept more offers of work, because we believe this will make us happy and complete our life.
And yet, with so many designations we carry, they don’t fill us. The full plate in front of us doesn’t fill us. There’s a gap in our life that continuously asks for more – and we keep doing more to be satisfied. What often happens is that we become exhausted with the toll of work we’ve committed to do. And this leads to bitterness about life, and against people around us who seem to do less things and yet seem to be happier than us.
The little village of Bethany, 33 Anno Domini
Martha storms into the front room, wearing a big apron around her waist and holding a basin full of vegetables and asks desperately, “Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 38 – 42.
Martha vs Maria
The only thing Martha wants to do is give her best in receiving the honorary guests. I’ve come to this story so many times in my life, and honestly I’ve easily assumed that Martha was sort of a grumpy woman. In contrast to a calm and tender Maria, in my imagination, Martha was an independent – I can do it all – don’t give me a crap – kind of a woman. I even pictured her less gentleness as a sign of her lack of love for Jesus.
Now, especially after reading the book “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World” by Joanna Weaver, my strong opinion about Martha has somehow changed. I see myself in her image. This busy and non-nonsense Martha could easily be me, and many mothers in this busy life. And this kind of attitude doesn’t happen because we don’t care, but rather because we care so much!
I now believe Martha loves Jesus as much as Maria, and in her version she wants to give Jesus her best – because it’s right and true: Jesus deserves our best! The only thing Martha wants is that Jesus and his disciples and perhaps also many of His followers who come to her house may get all the rest and food they need so much after walking so far. She wants to do her best, out of her love and yet it becomes too much for her and she is overwhelmed. This makes her stressed and starts to feel bitter about Maria who doesn’t give her a hand, but gets what seems to be a better part. Do you see this frustrated Martha in you?
In her frustration Martha comes to confront Maria in front of her Teacher. But Jesus gently leads Martha to get her priority straight. Jesus answers her plea, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
The only One we all need
Our craves come from unmet needs. We all have this craving feeling of something. One craves for food, one craves for luxuries. The others crave for love, attention, or recognition. These all are things we need and deserve to have. But life is never perfect and we don’t get things we want. So we keep searching for more.
But, there are these familiar lines we often hear, about a woman who has 300 pairs of shoes and yet she keeps having the urge to buy new ones. Or about a man with two wives and ten concubines. These people and many more like this – including everyone us, have this craving that has been fulfilled, and yet we’re not yet satisfied. Why?
Jesus said, we are all worried about many things, but only ONE is needed. And that is our connection with God, and the contentment and fulfillment that come with it.
While working hard doesn’t seem as bad as craving for Hermes bags, in all truthfulness we have to examine ourselves on which motive our work is based on and why we are never satisfied. Do I do all these hard works to honor God – or are they simply for my own pride and my own glorification? Because my friends, once it’s done for God and through God, God will give us these things we called contentment and peace.
I love the way John Piper addressed God glorifying life. He said, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” That’s it! God is not glorified based on how hard we work or how much we have gained. He’s glorified when we are connected with Him, satisfied in His love and in return do our best to share His works in us to everyone around us.
Mary chooses the right one because she chooses to stay close to Jesus and listens to Him. When the Lord personally comes to your house, no amount of food or feast can compare to the value of being close to Him and listening to the words that come directly from His mouth. Mary knows this and she chooses Jesus above any earthly matters. And she gets the satisfaction, and contentment that everyone needs in order to stop the craving.
To work and be satisfied
“Ambition is a good servant, but a bad master”, wrote Laura Ingalls Wilder. We need this reason and drive to work and develop ourselves. We need this cause that pushes us to do beyond our best. But we need to be the master of our ambition – oh no, we need God to be the master of our ambition!
Many nights of my life I wished I could be better, and stronger, and do more things than what I can do now. But ever since I surrendered my whole being to God during the long years of my struggle against cancer, I’ve finally claimed my peace and satisfaction based on my relationship with Him alone.
The amount of work I can do can not measure my worth and it can’t serve the emptiness in my heart either. Only God can fill this bottomless hole and stop the craving for more. When I decided to stick with God and walk my days with Him along, He fulfills every empty spot and at the same time shows me the things He wants me to do. I no longer run around like crazy looking for something to do in order to feel more useful, but I learn to ask and listen, and be meek and obedient to where I’m led to.
This “She” and this Martha were easily me. And they are me. Every day is a battlefield where I need to choose; to stay with God near to His feet and listen to Him or dwell in the busyness of my own lead and ambition. You can say a great happening like sickness can be a strong reason to have a radical change in life. But still the struggle is a daily matter, hence we need to daily choose our path.
Jesus said, “Only One is needed.” I hope all of us are able to find this ONE, and find peace and joy along with our choice. So we can be busy, have a full life, and yet say, that we are now happy.