The story of Mary and Martha has held a particular resonance for me recently. For the first time, after years of reading the story, I totally sympathise with Martha instead of Mary. Right now I’m team Martha through and through. Because, well, I get it. I am so jealous of people who get to spend unending hours with my Jesus. I listen to great prophets and teachers and feel anger and jealousy rise up because they have the precious gift of time to spend with the God I so desperately want to carve out quality time with. But, I can’t. Not at the moment.
There’s laundry to do, a daughter who won’t be put down, a house to clean, land to look after and two new businesses to run. When I think about Martha, desperately trying to feed her guests and keep her house clean and then her oblivious, self-indulgent, passionate sister ignoring all that needed to be done and just wasting her time and money at the feet of Jesus I totally get it. It’s so hard to be around Marys when you’re in a Martha season.
And let me tell you, motherhood is a Martha season. Boy, is it. I’m afraid my grace isn’t deep enough, nor my kindness rich enough to listen to my baby-less friends talk about being tired, or being too busy. I have to quell the storm of laughter that rises up when I hear people without babies say they didn’t sleep well. It’s not nice and it’s not pretty, I know. But, it’s true. Being a mother to a baby who doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat well and doesn’t nap well leaves you with absolutely nothing, nothing besides the hollow wreck of your body which has changed beyond recognition and no longer feels like your own.
Let’s spend a moment with two other biblical inspirations, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus. These two women went to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body with spices. It was an essential part of the burial process. It was part of a woman’s role to do this for her deceased family members, so in journeying to his tomb, after observing the sabbath, they were merely walking out their womanly roles. I can’t begin to imagine how they felt as they gathered and ground the spices and packed them up for the journey to the garden where He was buried but I do know that the job itself would have felt familiar, it was a practised, domestic process for them.
Of course, we all know what happened next; instead of a body to anoint they found a risen saviour to embrace.
The key point here, though, is that in living out their domestic duties, in serving their family, right in the depths of that servitude, they discovered Jesus. In the familiar, seemingly unimportant, seemingly uninspiring role that was theirs because they were women, they found themselves at the crux of the most important revelation and encounter in history.
Mammas, I’m talking to you now. In our day to day juggle of cleaning, cooking, nursery drop-offs, e-mailing, earning and organising we can find ourselves nose-to-nose with our risen saviour. He meets us in the domestic, He reveals Himself to us in the mundane, He came back from the dead to be with us as we WhatsApp, as we email, as we online shop. He met the women, with their ground-up spices, in the garden, before He met the men who were waiting on Him. I am not making a feminist point here, I promise. I’m stating an extreme in order to redress an imbalance – Jesus is as comfortable revealing Himself to us during the busy and the mundane as He is in the set apart and the sanctified. Mammas, we have to know this, we have to believe this, and we have to change our posture so we expect revelation and encounter even if all we’re doing is gathering spices.
Now, back to Martha for a moment. She has my total sympathy but I know that in that moment Mary was the one with the correct response. As much as my soul rejects that fact, my spirit knows it to be true. The only place to be, in that moment, was at the feet of Jesus giving Him the most extravagant worship that you can.
The thing is, Jesus has moods and moments and our job is to discern the time and respond appropriately. If Jesus comes to your home, sits down and invites connection then we need to drop everything to be at His feet. But, if He’s walking with you, chatting as you work and plan and do, then you need to turn your ear and invite Him fully into the intricacies of your day.
There are times to be with Him and then there are times to do with him and it’s the discerning of these that is the key to finding God in the madness of motherhood.