Living Font: Are You a Mary or a Martha?

There are pens in the pews of my church, which is a mixed blessing.  On one hand, this allows me to take notes on the bulletin insert during the pastor’s sermon.  On the other hand…literally…it allows me to jot down notes about the week ahead.  Most involve words like contract, invoice, and email and should be the farthest thing from my mind on a Sunday morning.

So how appropriate was it that today began a new sermon series, Stress Fractures?

The message took us to the home of sisters Mary and Martha.  You may know their more famous brother, Lazarus.  Isn’t that always the way?  On this particular day Jesus and His disciples were passing through the village where Martha and Mary lived.  Martha invited Jesus in, and while Mary sat and listened to what Jesus had to say, Martha hustled and bustled about her home, frantically preparing for the unexpected visitors.

I had a grandmother who could welcome unexpected company and thirty minutes later place before them a fabulous meal and a homemade pie, so I’ve got an image in my mind of how this scene likely looked.  Luke writes:

…Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.  She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 39-42

The Marthas in the sanctuary – at least this one – all felt a pang as we saw ourselves before us in the Word, a reminder of how we create unnecessary chaos in our lives.  I’m thrilled to say that I married a very patient Mary.  Here’s to balance…

The sermon went on to cover a series of five questions, and while each one was poignant, the second and fifth are the ones that have continued to resonate in my heart and mind throughout my Sunday.

What do you focus on more – your attitude or your service?

Are you a Martha who steam rolls over Marys on your way to accomplishing things for yourself and those around you?  Do you use your usefulness as an excuse for a bad attitude?  This one absolutely hits home for me.  I’m sure that someone could psychoanalyze why this is the case, and likely my Myers-Brigg score indicates that I’m a Type-A Martha, but whatever the cause, the outcome is the same.  I’m a Martha through and through.  And now to the fifth question:

What are you willing to commit to today to change the answers you don’t like?

I didn’t like the answers I gave to myself today while sitting in that sanctuary, twitching to not write flights on my hand.  I didn’t like that I pay more attention to the things that I cannot keep than I do to the things I cannot lose. I didn’t like that I have a difficult time distinguishing between what is urgent and what is important.  I didn’t like how I answer, whom are you living to please.

I’m a Martha.  And I’m going to commit to change.

Who are you?

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  • Thanks for the lovely article! Thoroughly enjoyed it! I think I’m a little bit of both Mary and Martha, depending on the day, lol ;o)

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amy Lupold Bair . Amy Lupold Bair said: New Post:: Living Font: Are You a Mary or a Martha? […]

  • I must admit that I’ve always related quite well with Mary. 🙂

  • I’m definitely Martha. But I long to be otherwise. I can completely relate to this post. I mentally make notes in church all of the time. It is a constant battle.

    You know, I’ve come across this message a number of times lately… perhaps there is a reason for that? Anyway, there is a book I’ve always wanted to read – Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Ever heard of it? I hear it is a fantastic read!

    Thank you for the reminder. I think I need to go invest in some quite time.

    • Amy

      After last week’s sermon, I sat down to write this post thinking that my pastor was the first person ever to use this scripture to talk about stress. Since writing the post I have heard about a variety of related books and seminars and I’m fascinated! I’ve got to find “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” It sounds like exactly what I need!