For me, one of the most meaningful stories in the Bible is found in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 10. It’s the story of two sisters named Mary and Martha. In the story, Jesus and his entourage of Disciples and followers-on descend on the home of Mary and Martha around the time of The Feast of the Tabernacles. It was a hectic, busy time and Martha, being highly organized and probably a bit OCD, was rushing about attempting to make everything perfect. Now, this was something she wanted to do for her friend and Lord Jesus; yet, on this particular day, she was getting a tad frazzled and overstretched. At one point, she happened to look into the living room and see her sister Mary lounging around with Jesus and the Disciples; sitting at Jesus’ feet, hanging on to his every word. And while Martha certainly could appreciate how enthralling it was to listen to Jesus, she, frankly, went a bit wiggy at the sight of Mary quite literally sitting on her rear, while she, Martha, was doing EVERYTHING. In fact, she was so irate, that in her self-righteous indignation, she thought certainly Jesus would berate Mary for her laziness. So, she approached him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” (Luke 10:40b)
And although all of us “Martha’s” in the crowd might be saying, “Yeah! Tell her, Jesus!”, Jesus, of course, had an important lesson and gentle rebuke for Martha when he replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 1041b-42)
I wonder what Martha felt when Jesus said this to her? I’m a doer, a multi-tasker extraordinaire. Oh, if only I could have eight arms like an octopus, imagine what I could get done! I’m betting many of you feel the same way; we are women! Here us roar!
And yet, and yet, if I am honest with myself, there are times when, even though the things I am doing are necessary such a working for my livelihood, routine like shopping, cooking, cleaning, caring for pets, or service oriented like the various activities I do in support of our church, I sometimes find myself frustrated, overwrought, emotional and burned out. I wonder why I feel this way when, most especially my church related activities are things that I both want to do and are what I feel I’m called to do. You know, those nudges!
As I was preparing this devotion, I got curious about the topic “women doing too much”; and so, I plugged this phrase into my trusty friend Google and within .52 seconds, that’s POINT 52 seconds, not 52 seconds, it returned with about 275 MILLION hits. Did you hear that? 275 MILLION. Here are a few of the top hits:
- Women Who Do Too Much/Psychology Today's research shows that women who do too much have depression,
- Power to Change says too much doing, going, helping and giving can take a toll on us physically,
- Want to be Happier? Stop doing everything!/Today.com says the only way to break the cycle: Stop doing everything!
- Are You a Perfectionist/Overfunctioner?/Huffington Post says stop doing too much and find more happiness,
- Finally, Older Women Say via Little.Things.com that they regret doing this: putting too much pressure on themselves to be perfect.
Please don’t misunderstand me. As Christians, we are called to love and care for others. We are called to service. We are called to freely give of ourselves in order to further God’s Kingdom here on earth. Yes, we are. But, the problems arise for us when we somehow get the idea that we have to do EVERYTHING.
While there are many needs, God has not called us to personally meet every one.
Back to our story of Mary and Martha. The Asbury Bible Commentary has this to say about the scene: “Martha criticized Mary and provoked a rebuke from Jesus. Martha’s fault was not her preoccupation with household chores. It was her hostile attitude towards her sister’s readiness to listen to Jesus. This story…indicates the importance of listening to Jesus and meditating on his words. Discipleship is not merely action. It involves contemplation.”
Contemplation. Being still. Resting. Recharging!
Yes, Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
And we all have our inner lights, the lights God wants us to show to others. We are not to keep our lights hidden under a basket, we are to shine for the whole world to see and know The Good News! Early on as small children in Sunday school, we were taught this message when we learned the sweet song, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it SHINE!”
But, what good is a light if it’s burned out?
I don’t think God means for us to constantly run around doing, doing doing; there are times when it’s equally, if not more important, for us to slow down and rest in Him.
So yes ladies, let us continue to shine our lights to glorify God, but let us remember that it’s also good and fitting to turn it off for from time to time; to spend quiet time in God’s presence and let His light recharge ours.
John Wesley’s brother Charles wrote:
O that I could forever sit,
With Mary at the Master’s feet!
Let us pray:
Gracious God: We want to do what is right by you and your Kingdom here on earth by shining our lights and doing works that are pleasing to you and beneficial to others. Help us to know when it’s time for us to slow down, to let you recharge our lights, so that we’ll be able to shine when it is most needed. In Jesus’ most precious name we pray. Amen