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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Mary, Martha, and a Message

I’ve been thinking some lately about Mary & Martha. You probably remember the story….Jesus goes to hang out at their house and Martha gets ‘busy’ – serving, cleaning, taking care of the guests – and Mary sits. But she doesn’t just sit….she SITS AT THE FEET OF JESUS! That’s where Martha wanted to be….hanging out at with the Messiah and drinking in every word He said. And frankly – she gets jealous. She’s busy ‘taking care’ of things and Mary’s sitting on her backside not paying any attention to anything but Jesus. And Martha makes her point known to Jesus.

“Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-41)

I confess I have a bit of a Martha complex right now. There’s a LOT going on and it feels as if I have 2 jobs…one more than full time that someone pays me to do and the other one I come home to for the ‘rest’ of the time. And my attitude can tank about it – quickly. That’s not to say that the need for a break is not real and not communicated…but it’s to say that the attitude towards it at times wreaks of Martha and screams for a touch of Mary.

I’ve left life’s circumstances take away the one thing that is most important to me – my personal time with the Lord each day. And as it’s basically been non-existent for about 2 months it becomes easier and easier to feel like God is slipping away. Or more accurately – that I’m slipping away from God and I suddenly find myself feeling like I’m going at this alone. Oh I ‘know’ God is there and all but I have to do this. It becomes about ‘me’ getting it done and ‘me’ doing what God has given me to do. Only ‘little’ thing missing is the power of God at work to make it easier! I’ve slipped down the slope and before I know it I’m relying on my own strength, my own power, my own knowledge. No wonder I’m tired, worn down, emotional, stressed, and need a break. And I’m not talking just a 4 hour break. I mean a BREAK!

So I’ve got the whole Martha thing going on and trying to figure out how to transfigure that to Mary. And then life creeps in again when I finally get a few minutes to crack open my Bible and notebook. And Martha pops back into the scene just when I was ready for her to make an exit. It’s a vicious circle and I see no real way out. It’s just my ‘responsibility before the Lord’ to bear up under the trial and so whatever needs to be done and I end up putting myself on the back burner. Serving doesn’t mean cast myself aside. Still not sure how to balance that whole thing but those are the thoughts in my head.

And then something happened today that melted me.

A few months ago I began the privilege of playing in the worship band at church. The group I play with is scheduled for this month so I was up on stage, guitar strapped over my shoulder, in ear monitors keeping me with the group, and just trying to make sure my harmonies weren’t too dissonant.  🙂

We were playing our last song after ministry time when I suddenly see one of our leaders come up on stage and step behind me. I thought little of it figuring he was heading for either the other guitarist or myself maybe just to pray for that person. And then I felt his hands on my shoulders. I was that person. OK…I can handle that. I’ll let him pray and I’ll keep playing. But then he started to speak quietly into my ear.

“I believe the Lord gave me a word for you just now.” I quit playing. I don’t know what you believe about those types of things but I believe God can speak to us through others. Yes it needs to line up with Scripture and all that…and this gentleman has had things impressed on his mind in relation to something for me in the past. I trust him because he trusts the Lord. So when he said “I believe the Lord gave me a word for you” I was all ears.

I quit playing, turned a little away from my music, and just looked at the carpet as he spoke. I wanted to hear what he had to say. It was simply this: “I AM NEAR.” He said he was in front as part of a prayer ministry team and when he glanced up on stage my way those three words came to mind with the explicit instruction to speak to them from behind me. The tears started. The weight of the world – the ‘so many things’ about which I am ‘worried and bothered’ (Jesus’ words to Martha) seemed to melt away. The weight became less. At least for that brief moment.

My mind immediately went to ‘what does that mean? is something bad going to happen?’ – and all those types of things. You know….trying to figure out God. But then I started to think of the symbolism behind the explicit instruction. This person was told specifically to come up behind me and speak to me from behind. Why that detailed? Because God wants me to know HE HAS MY BACK. I struggle with feeling alone and one my own – unprotected if you will. There are family members who are certainly ‘there’ to help and listen, etc., but no one is THERE physically in the immediate. They don’t live next door. The closest is 2 hours away. So feeling alone and ‘on a limb by myself’ is certainly an active feeling. So God wants me to know HE HAS MY BACK. HE IS NEAR!

And then this person shared a bit more as I gave a little insight to what’s been going on. He simply said this: ‘Nothing surprises God. He knows. He sees. He’s not caught off guard. He is near.’ And that comes into play with some personal stuff I’m working through….a time period in my life that I still struggle with, including feeling like God abandoned me. Now I ‘know’ that wasn’t the case but my mind hasn’t caught up with my heart, or the other way around – whichever way it goes. And in the process of working through the stuff I’m working through the struggles are getting bigger as the pain becomes more real. He wants me to know HE IS NEAR as I work that through, as I face my fears, and as I let go so He can fully heal. HE IS NEAR.

So I’m quiet and pondering right now. I’m confident there are many more applications. He is behind me – He has my back. He is near – He sees EVERYTHING and knows what’s going on –  including how I feel. He is near to be that lighthouse for a lonely sailor trying to find my way to shore in the midst of swelling seas. He is saying ‘do not fear’ and do not let myself be ‘worried and bothered about so many things.’ He will take care of it all. I just need to sit at His feet and be Mary for a while. “For Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Mary CHOSE to sit. I can do it. I just need to make the choice and keep making the choice.

Sitting at the feet of Jesus is described by the Lord Himself as ‘the good part.’ That’s the part I want.

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