Every morning after the kids eat breakfast, I wash the dishes and tidy up the house before my daughter’s morning nap. A few weeks ago, I found myself replacing stacks of books that had been pulled from the shelves by Felicity. As I worked, the little troublemaker crawled up behind me with a bucket full of blocks. Her intention was clear, but I turned back around to continue cleaning.
Two books later, I was struck with a thought: I was Martha.
Instead of playing with my daughter, I was rushing from room to room, replacing scattered toys, cleaning messes, and washing dishes. At that moment, I didn’t want to be Martha. I knew I needed to be Mary.
In the Gospel of Luke, Martha and Mary are sisters who have the great privilege of entertaining Jesus Christ in their house. As Martha bustles around, serving and cleaning, Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. When Martha reprimands her sister, Jesus rebukes her in return because Mary had “chosen the better part” (Luke 10:42). Martha was anxious and worried about the burdens of hosting (and for good reason—it was God after all), but she was missing her chance to sit at the feet of Jesus. The dirty dishes would remain—Jesus Christ would not. He would soon be called to give His life for man, and so Martha’s time with Jesus was limited.
When we care for our children, we are responding to our God-given call to motherhood, and we are caring for Christ in them. Sure, our time is limited and already stretched too thin, and those dishes do eventually need to be washed, but this small amount of time is why we need to embrace the time we have and use it as best we can.
As I left behind the scattered books on the floor in favor of Felicity’s blocks, I knew this was my chance to be Mary for her. I could be Martha later when Felicity was asleep. For the time being, choosing to play with Felicity was choosing the better part for me.
In our lives as mothers, we will have opportunities to be both Martha and Mary. We just need to prayerfully discern when those times might be. As a stay-at-home mother, my responsibilities include cleaning up after my children and providing them and my husband with a safe, clean home.
I need to be Martha on a daily basis, just as I need to be Mary.
I need to clean, wash, and tidy. I need to cook and serve. It’s part of my life as a mother. What I don’t need to do is go about those things with the anxiety and worry found in Martha in that Scripture passage. I have adopted the motto, if I can’t do it now, I will do it later. There is no need to rush, to worry I won’t get everything done. I might not get everything done when I want it done, but it gets done when it needs to be done. That’s enough for me.
As mothers, we need to stay in touch with our Mary side. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the midst of dirty dishes, scattered books, and broken crayons. Those things can become overwhelming. But as often as we can, we must ask ourselves, is this a time to be Martha or to be Mary? We tend to focus on the Martha moments, but our children live for the Mary moments. We just need to make sure we give our children enough of them.
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