Sunday, August 16, 2009

Martha, Martha, Martha

I was asked to teach a Relief Society lesson a couple of weeks ago on Mary & Martha. How cool is that? I LOVE the Mary & Martha story, probably because my name should've been Martha. {Hear that, Mom & Dad?} And NOT Martha Stewart. No, no. That lady has more attention to detail in the tip of her pinky finger than I have in my entire body........and that is an astounding ratio that I'd rather not think about ever, I definitely relate to Martha, sister of Mary & Lazarus, friend to Jesus, and frazzled servant who was trying to manage a rather large dinner party all by herself while her sister did absolutely nothing. Ok, so that's not exactly how the story goes, but I can imagine that it's just how Martha felt. How do I know? Because I AM Martha, remember? The story is found in Luke Chapter 10, and is a mere 5 verses long. I just love how the scriptures are written so that we can learn so much from something so efficiently worded. Starting in verse 38, we read:
38 ¶ Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
Now, can you imagine receiving the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into your home? I can only imagine how much planning would've gone into making this dinner the absolute best it could be. I'm positive that Martha had things planned out to the Nth degree, and I'm even more positive that Mary would've been included in those plans, but in the next verse we see what Mary had decided to do instead.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
So Martha was no longer getting the expected help in the kitchen that she so desperately needed to ensure her sanity.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. Cumbered. What a great word. Makes me think of how my hands feel when I'm making dinner and trying to dredge chicken in egg & flour. The more I work, the thicker the batter gets, giving me "club hand" until I can no longer move my fingers. The weight of Martha's burden was increased when Mary chose to do something other than help her. That burden finally got so heavy that she blamed Mary, and wanted Jesus to "correct" her.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
So many people think that Mary chose the better part, when in fact, the scriptures say that Mary chose "that good part." It doesn't even say the good part, because that would imply that any other part was not the good part. It says that good part, implying that it was one of many good parts. Martha was not choosing a lesser part than Mary, just a different one. Jesus' gentle chastisement was therefore, not about Martha choosing to serve instead of sit at His feet. It was about Martha forgetting the one needful thing--WHO we serve, not HOW we serve.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke of this when he said, "If our service is to be most efficacious, it must be unconcerned with self and heedless of personal advantage. It must be accomplished for the love of God and the love of his children. From this principle we learn that it is not enough to serve God with all our might and strength. He who looks into our hearts and knows our minds demands more than this. In order to stand blameless before God at the last day, we must also serve him with our heart and mind. Only when we forget ourselves, what others think of us, and how others' service compares to our efforts can we appreciate and internalize the one needful thing. Only when efforts are motivated by love and selflessness can His peace and gracious Spirit rest within us. Accepting Christ's enabling power is not a weakness--it is our only strength. When we come to Christ, with diligent service born of a pure heart and no thought of reward, we find the One Needful Thing, in all His powerful accessibility."

Martha was undoubtedly serving with all her might and strength, but her focus was skewed because it was all about her instead of being all about those she was serving. She forgot to serve with her heart and mind, and to focus on the enabling power of the Lord, which would allow her to do so.

After studying these five simple verses, I came away with a new and greater understanding of the Mary/Martha dynamic, and how it fits into my own life. I very often get caught up in the service I'm doing (especially when it comes to my family), so much so that I can't get interrupted by the one I'm serving without getting completely frustrated. Ridiculous, I know, but it's the Martha in me! I've now made a conscious effort to stop what I'm doing when I get frustrated, to regroup and reevaluate what my focus is. It's helped the dynamic in my own home change, as there's much less yelling from Mom, and much more doing things together. I think I will always feel a kinship to Martha, and I think that's why I'm so grateful about where we find her in the next chapter. John Chapter 12 begins with Jesus coming back to Bethany six days before the Passover. "There they made him a supper; and Martha served."


heather said...

Loved it. We haven;t been to church in like three months with the flu, trips and a UTI so I need some spiritual uplift!

Ardie said...

Excellent insights! Being a Martha as well, I was always frustrated when people would say Martha needed to be like Mary. For years that bugged me. Then I realized what you just stated. Mary's WASN'T the better part. Both Mary and Martha were doing what needed to be done. The feast needed to be made, but the guests also needed to be entertained. Both girls were involved in making the feast a success.