Riding the wave of peace and tranquility from Friday I awoke on Saturday and hurried to the grocery store to pick up supplies for the morning’s Brown Bag Ministry. Five minutes late and a loaf short, I would spend the rest of the day trying to catch up.
I got home to find that my husband, who had just finished aerating, needed a ride to the airport and someone to take the aerator to its next user of the day, albeit three hours late.
I finished those errands and turned my attention to kids and dogs waiting to be fed, dishes to be washed and laundry to be folded. Frazzled, frustrated and fatigued I realized with dismay that it was just past noon.
How had Friday’s peace fled in less than 24 hours?
What’s on Your Mind?
A delicate tension exists between faithfully and lovingly serving my family, and overdoing it to the point that I find myself in an unholy place of resentment and exasperation … and it is in such times that I start sounding embarrassingly like my sister, Martha:
Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.
Jesus’ response isn’t an indictment of Martha’s busyness so much as her mindset, her words (and tone, I imagine) exposing the condition of her heart:
Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things...
I understand where Martha was coming from. After all she likely spent days cleaning, shopping for food and coordinating the prep work to host their special guest. And she had been the one to get up early, despite her fatigue, to await the rabbi’s arrival in Bethany and extend the invitation to their home.
And yet it was Mary who now sat at the feet of Jesus, savoring the moment Martha had worked so hard to make possible.
The Greek word to describe Martha’s mindset, perispao, literally means to “drag all around, to be too busy, too distracted.” Anyone feeling Martha’s pain about now?
A Servant’s Heart
When Jesus speaks truth into our lives we can choose to reject it or allow it to change and refine us. It seems that Martha followed her sister’s lead in this regard and chose the better part, because later — when her brother, Lazarus, becomes ill — her encounter with Jesus reveals a very different heart.
She starts out in typical Martha fashion by saying, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died.” Only this time she follows what sounds like accusation with an affirmation of faith: “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus says, challenging her by His reply.
“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” Martha affirms a second time, faith pouring forth from her heart full of grief.
No doubt Jesus was moved by this little rock of a woman, for He blesses her newly refined heart with a monumental revelation and an invitation, calling her boldly into an even deeper relationship:
I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.
Do you believe this?
Martha is confident in her response: “Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (John 11:27)
What a gift Jesus bestows on His faithful servant.
I love how the encounter ends because it is so human and so…female: “When she had said this, she went away and called Mary, her sister, saying secretly, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.'” (John 11:28) It seems that Martha chose to keep this special moment to herself, at least for a little while.
Life in the Balance
I know women with a heart like Mary’s, and many with a heart like Martha’s. But in truth, I believe most of us have hearts that beat like both, and the beat we follow can be as fickle as the day.
We relish days that we can sit peacefully at the feet of our Lord and fill our hearts with His truth and His love. Other days we find ourselves busy with many things.
Jesus’ message to Martha, and to us, is that it is possible to be busy without letting it drag us all around, causing us to feel too busy and too distracted.
Ultimately it is our responsibility to guard our hearts and ensure that whatever we do, we do with a joyful heart:
- What do your words reveal about the condition of your heart?
- Are you faithful in doing everything for the Lord, whether it is glorious — like sharing his Word with someone in need — or mundane like making a Tuesday dinner?
- Are you equally faithful to seek time each day to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His Word?