Many of us are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha, or at least the traits they are known for. Even if you aren't a regular Bible reader, you have probably heard of the Mary's of the world who are less busy and easily focus on just one or two things. And then there are Martha's, who are always multi-tasking, busy and distracted. Mary is usually looked upon favorably and Martha not so much.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called 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 10:38-23
Personally, I think both Mary and Martha have their strengths and weaknesses. Because often within our greatest strengths, lie our greatest weaknesses.
I like to be active and busy. I love serving and being involved. I enjoy helping others in small or big ways.
But this means I sometimes, and by sometimes I mean a lot of the time, overextend myself. I underestimate the demands on my time and energy and find myself in over my head, stretched too thin with little margin. I worry too much about what people think and I never want to disrupt or upset others, much less have to say no.
It is my heart of giving and serving that gets me into trouble and has caused burnout more than once in my life. A strength and also a weakness. There is nothing inherently wrong with all the preparations Martha was making, or with the many things that call our attention each day. But sometimes, we get so caught up in those things that we miss the moments and opportunities we can't get back. The dishes will always be there, but my 5 year old who wants to play a game with me (even though she can't stand to NOT give me hints when we play Headbanz) will one day be a 15 year old who may want little to do with me.
A lot of what I do comes out of my heart that loves the Lord and wants to serve Him and love others with His love. My "Martha tendencies" and my "Mary heart" are sometimes a dangerous combination. And I would guess many struggle with these two sides in us.
A few weeks ago I read this passage and found new meaning for the season of life I'm in.
As I come to terms with finding rhythm instead of establishing routine, I've realized how important it is to look at my day and determine what "one thing" I need to focus on. Perhaps the day has a theme--such as getting caught up on housework and laundry--one thing. Sometimes the "one thing" is for an hour or two. And then it changes.
Because there are always too many things on my to-do list, determining my "one thing" has become essential in my day. Checking things off my to-do list is good, but taking a moment to assess what is most important for that hour, for that day is better and best.
And so I've begun to try to make a habit of looking at my calendar, my to-do list, and asking God--"what is the one thing I should focus on today? Help me to avoid distraction and fragmentation. Help me not be worried and upset about things that don't matter or that I can't control. I want to choose what is better, I want to choose to invest my time and energy into what lasts."
I challenge you to read this passage and seek meaning for your life right now. What does "one thing" mean for you?