The Better Part

I have heard this Scripture passage so many times I can close my eyes and visualize each word of the story.

Two sisters, a complaint, a rebuke from Jesus.

I have always been a little annoyed, I mean Mary was just sitting there, I don’t blame Martha.

I can picture her, sweating from the heat, trying to do six things at once while dropping spoons, burning the bread, and working herself utterly into a panic.

Haven’t I been that hostess? Anxious, flustered, and slightly annoyed that no one is taking on as much as me.

And yet here Martha is tattling on her sister in righteous annoyance- and Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better part.

I’ve heard it before. It’s the same words, the same story. But when I heard it yesterday, the difference was I am not the same person as I was the last time I listened to this familiar story.

For the past ten months, I’ve been going to therapy. It took about fifteen minutes into my first session for me to learn from my therapist that I struggle with anxiety. She looked at my tearful self with the kindest expression and revealed to me the lens that I have been viewing the world through.

I used to hear this reading and find Martha underappreciated. I saw myself in her, as the misunderstood person who was just trying to keep everyone afloat, who had every right to be stressed. Through my anxiety lens, taking on more than you can handle is normal. Holding others to the same impossible standard you give yourself is expected. Festering bitterness is justified.

For the first time yesterday, I truly heard the words that Jesus spoke:

“Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.”

It’s not that she was working, it’s not even that she was complaining, it’s that she was anxious, that’s the problem.

Jesus tells us over and over in Scripture that we are preoccupied with worry. “Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your lifespan?…do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself” (Matt 6:27-34). Anxiety about the minute details was what the Pharisee’s excelled in, and He made it a point to tell them at every chance that they were focused on the wrong things.

The loud, unmistakable message from our Lord is that anxiety is not from Him.

While Martha is consumed with the worries of her tasks, she cannot enjoy the presence of her dear friend Jesus. Anxiety jumbles her priorities and confuses what is important and what isn’t.

If her lens is trust in Jesus above all, instead of worry, she can recognize Him as the most important thing. Maybe it’s cooking a little, and then sitting at the feet of Jesus, maybe it’s sacrificing her time at the feet of Jesus so that Mary can be refilled.

Jesus looks at Martha, and me, and all who hold on so tightly to our worry and asks us to let go.

There is another way, a better way, a more peaceful way, and it begins at his feet.

– Maureen

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