Martha is having some difficulty with her meal preparation and could use some help. Anyone?
This is the seventh in a series of twelve reflections on the story of Mary and Martha, found in Luke 10.38-42. If you’d like to read the whole series, start with the first post , where they are listed in full at the end of the piece.
As always, let’s begin with the text:
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 (NRSV)
Maybe we need a few more of these at the party. And less of some other stuff.
I need help.
Martha is clearly having trouble. Things are not going smoothly in the domestic arena, and she needs a few extra hands. There is work that needs to be done, and she feels the burden fully. We’ve all been in this situation, and many of us have responded like Martha did — with a bit of panic, blame, and exasperation.
But what if, instead of complaining about Mary, Martha had said, “Lord, I am having trouble. I need help!” Perhaps she could have even gone on to say, “I am distracted by my tasks, but I want to listen too!” What would have happened if she had presented the problem to Jesus while leaving the solution up to him? What would he have done?
This is such a subtle shift in attitude, but a very important one. It is something we talk with our children about often, the different between a petulant “I don’t have a spoon!” and a polite “Could you please hand me a spoon?” The words can even be the same, but the tone of voice speaks volumes. I watch for this in my own speech as well, and it all starts with my state of being. Do I trust that I’m being heard and cared for? Do I believe that others are on my team? Or do I feel that everyone is against me?
What would it have been like if Martha’s deepest self believed that Jesus wanted to help her? What if she had presented her troubles to him? Perhaps he would have helped her reorganize her priorities and make a new plan (“Peanut butter sandwiches for all!”). Perhaps he would have invited her to sit down for a few minutes with a glass of wine, knowing that she was tired and thirsty. Perhaps he would have even gotten up himself to help, instructing his disciples to follow his counter-cultural example into the kitchen. We can’t know what would have happened then…but we can find out what will happen today when we ask him for help.
Where do I need to say, “Lord, I am in trouble. I need help!”
Am I able to give up my own plans in favor of listening to Jesus?