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Reconciling Mary and Martha: Finding Balance in a World of Busyness

"Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was...

"Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:38-42).

The New Testament story of Mary and Martha is one that particularly resonates with me.  I am continually drawn back to its words and their meaning in my life.  Although this story is over 2,000 years old, the story is clearly applicable and relevant to our modern world and reflects the inner struggle that many of us face to find balance between “being” and “doing”. 

Over the years, many self help books have been written and much emphasis has been placed on maintaining a balanced life.  We tend to think that our busyness is something new – the result of a continually changing society in which we want more, need more, and do more.  The story of Mary and Martha tells us that busyness is not a new phenomenon – it has been around for many years, along with the stress and frustration that often accompanies it.  The good news is that we hear what is most important from Jesus himself.  Jesus’ response to Martha provides us with the guidance and direction that we need to help us define our priorities.

Is this your story? 

As Jesus and his followers entered Mary’s house, she graciously welcomed them and set about preparing a meal for them, as was customary.  With all of the details involved with serving an extravagant meal to such a large crowd, Martha did not have time to listen to Jesus.  It was her job to make sure the house was clean, the meal was prepared and served, and the needs of her guests were met.  She was the ultimate “doer”, a productive, hard-working woman paying great attention to detail, organization, and the task at hand. 

Mary, on the other hand, sat at the feet of Jesus to listen to his teaching.  She was anxious to hear and learn what he spoke about.  Mary was very centered in her spiritual life, in her “being”, and realized the significance and importance of this opportunity. 

Because women in this time traditionally were expected to prepare the meals and take care of the house, Martha was very upset that Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus rather than help with the meal preparation.  In fact, Martha was so upset about it that she addressed it with Jesus instead of speaking directly with Mary about it.  And what did Jesus have to say about it?  He said “Martha, Martha, you are distracted and worried by many things: there is need for only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” 

Did Jesus mean to say that preparing the meal and being a good hostess was not important?  Certainly not – obviously the guests needed to eat.  He meant that Mary chose to honor her spiritual self and that was important.  Mary understood the importance of hearing and being with Jesus and chose that over helping Martha. Rather than preparing an elaborate meal as Martha did, a simpler meal would have been sufficient and Martha could have listened to Jesus as well.  It all came down to each woman ordering their priorities and acting on them.

Modern Marys and Marthas

Many women today struggle with finding balance in a world of busyness.  We have errands to run, things to do, a house to take care of, and a family to care for, among other things.  We are very often caught up in the busyness of life and neglect our spiritual selves.  We tend to focus on “doing” rather than “being”, perhaps even going as far as judging those that aren’t as productive or focused as we are.  But the real question is: how can we balance Mary and Martha in our lives? 

Creating a balanced life can be a tricky proposition in a world that is focused on productivity and results.  The key, as Jesus pointed out to Martha, is to know your priorities and to avoid getting distracted and worried by other things.  When we focus on getting things done and sacrificing our personal time to just “be”, life will become unbalanced, as it was for Martha.  Taking time for yourself and focusing on your “being” is critically important to maintaining overall life balance.  Spending time with God is a perfect way to help regain or maintain balance in your life.  There are so many different ways to spend time with God: prayer, meditation, studying scripture, walking in nature, or volunteering your time to spread the light of Christ to the world in whatever way honors your gifts.  Remember the words that Jesus spoke to Martha and see what that means to you.

As you schedule your minutes, days, and weeks, keep in mind what is most important to you and use that as the guide for your life.  This week, focus a little more on “being” rather than “doing” and see how that feels to you.  Don’t let your busyness and worry distract you from living a balanced life.  If you feel like Martha, think about the choice that Mary made and how Jesus felt about it.  His words are just as practical today as they were 2Psychology Articles,000 years ago.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


April Mims is a life and career coach specializing in work/life balance issues and life and career transitions. Her coaching practice is Nexus Coaching Partners. She is passionate about empowering clients to balance the demands of a successful career and a strong family life. April invites you to a complimentary 30-minute coaching session to see if coaching could benefit you. To learn more or subscribe to The Nexus Connection newsletter, visit http://www.nexuscoachingpartners.com.

 



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