The other morning my son ran up to me and said, for what I am certain was the one millionth time that week, “Mommy I veeeerrrrry hungry”.
I peered down at him, seeing all the eagerness and hunger and desperation in his blue puppy dog eyes.
Although the bag of grapes was a 10 second walk across the room in that moment I could not handle his need – and I lost it.
I just couldn’t cope with being needed for ONE. MORE. SECOND. and I collapsed on the couch and started crying.
My husband graciously (as always) and gently (as always) suggested that over the weekend I spend some time by myself while he takes the kids to the park. And my immediate internal response was to resist such an idea, as vehemently and viscerally as my fingers fly from a hot handle on the stove.
I don’t deserve this, I thought. I should get over this and have more patience like a good mom.
While it is true that I have been known to hide in a closet for a moment’s peace from my darling children, most of the time I feel guilty and unentitled to sit at Jesus’ feet.
I am just a woman.
I am just a mom.
My work is menial.
Jon is in ‘real’ ministry, if anything he should have that time on Saturday to spend with Jesus. I should finish folding that laundry and quit complaining.
Yes my friends, these are the actual thoughts of a 21st century woman. So embarrassing, I know. But shame and lies don’t care what year it is or what your theology on women is or what rational thought patterns should be.
Thankfully one of my favorite things about Jesus is the way he confronts women who have fallen and stayed down, women who have shrunk back, and women who have hidden away and then permits them, invites them really, to occupy a space of love, healing, community, ministry and discipleship.
I see that in the way he takes a sinful woman of Samaria with no friends and a bunch of husbands and talks to her, saves her and turns her into a vital member of her community as an evangelist.
I see that in the way that he not only heals the woman with the flow of blood, but esteems her in the crowd as a woman who is acceptable and a woman of faith.
And, I see it in the story of Jesus in the home of Martha and Mary.
Oh yes, Mary and Martha, we meet at last.
I knew at some point in my blogging career I would get around to the obligatory Mary and Martha post. It seemed inevitable, kind of like the Proverbs 31 thing, I mean what Christian woman hasn’t thrown up her hands in exasperation to exclaim “I am such a Martha!” or “If only I was more of a 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!”
Martha is doing a stand-up job of fitting some female stereotypes here, isn’t she?.
In the kitchen? check.
Pointing a finger at other women? check
Playing the martyr for having to do all the work? check
Taking care of everyone else? check.
I think most Christian women gravitate toward this passage because we so often find ourselves in similar situations. Someone has to do all the preparations. The house isn’t gonna clean itself, after all, and someone has to feed the
masses husband and children.
Traditionally women had certain spaces they were permitted to occupy, and Martha had it right, and in that space I believe her devotion is nothing short of beautiful. The role of hostess was extremely important and these sisters (along with their brother Lazarus) probably had an entire house of hungry disciples to feed so here she is working her tail off.
Martha’s work is valuable and important.
I need that reminder as I struggle to claim worth in washing sheets for the third day in a row or sweating over the stove trying to get that dinner perfect. I need that reminder as I look at the two year old completely dependent upon me for all his needs.
But as usual, Jesus’ interactions are layered with complexity and I see God’s heart for me as he offers me something more.
She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.
Because before I get to that point where I am exhausted and crying on the couch in front my kids, I absolutely revel in being the person who gets the job done, who knows what she is doing, and who is hard working. I need to be reminded, frequently, that life is not found in God’s work, but in God himself.
Jews who were training to be teachers were usually the ones sitting at the rabbis’ feet. Male Jews. This was, in a very black and white kind of way, NOT a position open to women.
Yet, here she is.
Daring to assume a position of discipleship. Daring to step out from that safe, albeit hot and hectic, kitchen to be something other than what her culture, her sister, her people expected of her. More than what was passed down to her. More than what was socially acceptable.
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.”
The cultural esteem of hospitality…
The traditional acceptability of where women belong (or don’t belong)…
The weighty demands of the urgent that so often hide the important…
The pride of being the one who has done the most at the end of the day…
Trumped. All of them.
While I believe that the Lord has called and entrusted and released me to do ministry (in every sense of that word from homemaker to leader) sometimes I find myself holding back and apologizing and second guessing and forfeiting.
But Jesus beckons me, as he beckons all, out of the kitchen, out of the fray, out of the pain, out of shame, out of judging others, out of the urgent, even out of our cultures.
To the place of importance, the place of a disciple.
To the place of learning and growing and transforming into a woman who would hold the invitation of her Savior high above what others think or demand of her.
There I see my sister, Mary of Bethany, accept this invitation to occupy a new place as a woman. I’m not sure if she cared that her sister was freaking out. I’m not sure if she felt the eyes of the male disciples upon her in disbelief or perhaps disapproval. I’m not sure if she felt guilty that dinner wouldn’t be served on time. I’m not sure if she realized the significance of her act.
In lies I stay put. I remain at the well with my empty jar. I remain hidden in the crowd. I remain ill. I remain as hostess. I collapse onto the couch. I scoff at the idea of entering into something more.
But in Christ and to Christ I can come forward. I can stand up. I can be reconciled. I can be loved. I can be found worthy. I can take an hour on Saturday to sit in quiet, introverted bliss. I can serve my family. I can teach and learn. I can lead and follow. I can sit and adore. I can tell others.
I can let Jesus tell me, Choose what is better, it will not be taken from you.