“As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed Him and made Him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word He said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.” The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42
I was reading this story to my daughter as part of our regular bedtime routine. It had been a particularly difficult period of parenting. I had the “normal” mom stuff on my mind: the dirty clothes piles were growing faster than I was washing, there was a constant stream of stuff on the table or dishes in the sink, etc. But beyond that, I felt overwhelmed at the extra needs of my unique daughters. I hadn’t helped my daughter practice in her prosthetic leg enough, and I hadn’t done enough physical therapy exercises with the baby. In a sea of things to do I was just trying to keep my head above water.
On this night of Bible reading, these words leapt off the page: “Only one thing is essential, and Mary has chosen it.” The words hit me between the eyes. Before having children it seemed so easy to know the right thing to choose. I thought I was Mary! When did I suddenly turn into Martha?
The more I’ve considered this passage, I’ve recognized that Martha really wasn’t distracted by bad things. Making our home a place of safety and hospitality for our family and guests is good, noble, and biblical. Martha’s problem wasn’t necessarily what she was doing, it was the distractions she allowed to take her focus away from the One essential thing—Christ.
Rather than soaking up every moment of sitting in the presence of Christ, Martha allowed cultural expectations to distract her away from the opportunity to sit at His feet. She needed to listen to the love and wisdom coming from the Lord’s mouth, but instead she listened to the familiar call of an unprepared meal and unset table. Like me, she lost sight of what was truly important among the sea of unfinished tasks.
The truth is, I am Martha. God has entrusted me with two incredibly precious girls, which gives me a rare and unique way of serving Christ. Their distinct special needs require a lot. Our weeks include hospital visits and multiple physical therapies on top of all the regular “mom stuff.” Among the seemingly endless list of things to do, I’ve realized I often take my focus off of the one essential thing—Christ. I cannot be the mom my daughters need me to be apart from Him. My daughters cannot develop the way they need to apart from Him. So while there are many important things that I may need to tend to, only one thing is essential.
At the end of the day I may not have done all the therapy needed, read enough books, or cooked healthy, organic meals. But all of those can be taken away. Of all the tasks I need to do for my family, the most foundationally important thing is to know Christ personally and point them to Him. Of course it’s good and important to teach my children and raise them in a healthy environment, but what good is a spotless home and brilliant children if they do not know the One Who gives them such beautiful gifts?
Martha momentarily took her focus off of Christ and allowed herself to be distracted by things that cannot compare. Praise the Lord her story doesn’t end there! When we see her again in John’s gospel, we see her focus fixed on Jesus. In the wake of her brother’s death, she boldly proclaims, “I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, Who is to come into the world!” She had learned her lesson and her identity was fastened to the One Who could never be taken from her.
So maybe I’m more like Martha, but maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing after all. I may sometimes lose focus, but at the end of the day I want to be remembered as a woman who knew Christ and trusted in Him with her family. There are many things that demand our time as mothers, and while they are often truly important, may we remember that of all the demands of life, only One is essential—His name is Jesus Christ.
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