Flowing with life is a key to contentment, especially when priorities appear confusing. Jesus explained this, in the brief story of “Mary and Martha” (Luke 10:38-42).
A woman named Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. She had a sister, Mary, who listened to Jesus teach. But Martha was distracted with serving. She said to Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you’re anxious and troubled about many things, but few things are necessary. Mary has chosen the best portion, which will not be taken from her.”
Often, this story provokes an “Ooo,” as if to suggest that Mary is holier than Martha, or that serving is “bad.” Or that if we ever feel anxious, we’re disconnected from God. None of which is true.
Rather, it invites us to consider that Martha and Mary are aspects of ourselves and complements of one another. Viewed from a Both/And perspective, they represent our hearts and minds, both equally important in our spiritual development and maturity.
Mary represents our receptive, heart-centered, being nature, which invites spiritual and emotional guidance by putting God first. Martha represents our practical, mind-centered, doing nature, which maintains and manages our physical and mental well-being.
If our Mary nature becomes unbalanced, we may doubt ourselves and feel hopeless, lost or scattered. Or we may become critical, telling others how they “should” feel. If our Martha nature becomes unbalanced, we may feel impatient, sullen or worried. We may give God directions and tell others how they “should” think.
So, the Both/And, “Ah-Ha,” of the story is that our hearts and minds are meant to harmonize: our hearts by being and our minds by doing. Jesus encourages both. He never says, “I choose only Mary to sit and listen.”
We also can balance our being and doing by taking some practical steps:
- Set a spiritual schedule for daily prayer and meditation. Remember: God first; then everything else.
- Set a worldly schedule which includes daily, weekly, monthly and annual self-care for our bodies, homes and vehicles so everything can to do its appointed task. Remember: Let’s not be so busy driving that we run out of gas.
- Integrate times for rest, nourishment, play and work. Remember: We don’t get extra points for overdoing. We just burn out.
- Notice and acknowledge our myriad range of feelings and needs. Remember: Pretending that our feelings don’t matter or that we can sacrifice our needs isn’t spiritual. It’s trying to be a robot, rather than a sacred spiritual being living an earthly existence.
- Notice when and how we experience true contentment, even when we aren’t completely blissful. Remember: We can choose to feel as peaceful working as we can playing.
As we find our balance and continue our journeys, we also realize more of God’s presence and power, knowing that however and wherever we are, God is.
© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.
Ah, yes. You have helped me understand the Martha/Mary syndrome and given me good suggestions on how to integrate two aspects of myself.