Most of you know that I am not a religious gal. The Bible is not a book that I know well, and barely at all, in fact. That being said, I do feel that Jesus was a highly evolved being who walked this planet inviting us to become aware of the Christ Consciousness possible within every heart, and his message of love and compassion moves me deeply.
And for some reason, I felt compelled the other day to share the story of Martha and Mary, one of the few stories that really stuck with me from my church-going upbringing. It is one that my mom and I have pondered together often, so I emailed her yesterday asking for the specific passage.
Being much more traditionally religious than I, she happily obliged, maybe even with an almost imperceptible excitement that I was finally going to share something from the Bible.
The story, in my own words, is as follows (the actual passage can be found at the end of the blog):
When Jesus is traveling to a village, he stops at the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary. Of course, they both excitedly invite him into their humble abode.
The older sister, Martha, immediately heads to the kitchen to take care of the physical details of his visit—food, plates, beverages, linens, and more—while Mary, the younger sister, immediately offers Jesus a chair and sits beside him, opens her heart and prepares to listen and connect. Eventually, Martha asks Jesus why he has not sent Mary in to assist her in the kitchen, and he lovingly declares that Mary has made the better choice.
My mom and I have always been deeply touched by this story, BOTH feeling some truth in it AND feeling great empathy for Martha.
It is a fine balance, especially as we come upon the holidays when we gather with loved ones and friends, where to place our efforts—more toward the physical aspect of the festivities which is often a lot of work and demands much time spent on the details or more toward the being aspect of the holiday which focuses upon the stillness, connection and joy. Even beyond the holidays, as in the parable above, this is quite often a choice that we must make.
After much contemplation on this story through the years, I have come to feel that a conscious balance may be the highest offering. The truth is, someone has to be the Martha, not to an extreme, but gathering with others usually involves food, drink and preparation. And some people truly enjoy that role. Perhaps a consideration for those who tend to lean more toward being a Martha might have to do with time-consumption and elaboration. In other words, is it possible to host simply so that we may also spend quality time with our visitors.
Likewise, for all of the Mary's out there, and my mom and I both fall more naturally into this category, it is important to appreciate those who are more concerned with the physical aspects of a gathering and offer to assist in a way that feels genuine and helpful. If that means making a simple pot of delicious soup, setting the table, and helping to serve dinner, then we must be willing to share in the labor.
Once again, I am struck through this story, at the different perspectives and ways of being that blend and overlap among us. There is not one right way to be or one right thing to do. But what we can allow for is greater appreciation for one another and what we bring to the table, both literally and figuratively.
After I read the actual passage that my mom sent to me yesterday, we both commented via email that we feel love for each sister, and while we understand Jesus's slight admonition to Martha, perhaps we would have pointed out appreciation for both perspectives, inviting each sister to reflect individually on her role and the bigger picture.
I hope the story of Martha and Mary gives each of you a catalyst for self-reflection as we head into holiday week.
This will be my final blog of 2012, and I just want to thank everybody for taking the time to read and contemplate my words. I feel so grateful for this venue and for all of the readers out there who have co-created this space with me that allows me to share from my heart without fear or apology.
I wish each of you a JOYOUS holiday and a bright new year.
New International Version (NIV)
At the Home of Martha and Mary
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”