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And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
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.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
— Luke 10: 38 – 42, King James version
Martha was a maker. She was preparing the evening meal when her sister Mary disappeared to go hang with Jesus.
And Martha got mad. The fish needed broiling; the fire sent sweat pouring down her face. Thank goodness she’d made fig cakes this morning, but would he mind bread a few days old? Well, it would have to do–but Jesus was no ordinary guest. While she slaved, Mary kept glancing over her shoulder, but no Martha, no Martha, no Martha. Finally she stormed into the room where Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening avidly.
“Make her help me!” Martha snapped, sure Jesus would see what was the Christian thing to do.
Jesus told Martha she only needed one thing–spiritual time, AKA reflective and quiet time–which is exactly what Mary had already figured out. Jesus told Martha that what Mary had would never disappear.
In other words, the “slacker” had it all figured out.
This parable always irks me because I’m a doer. In this story the doers lose. 100% Virgo, I waste no time getting about my business. Down time seems gratuitous; let’s just say I don’t give myself much time for daydreaming unless it’s permitted by schedule–a mind wandering during the commute, though I’d do better to listen to NPR; waiting in a doctor’s office, but I could be working on a short story. Every hour could be better used to get something done. Obsessed, workaholic, intense, I expect a lot out of me, every day.
I have spent many moons making this novel, and today, I have nought but another draft to show for it. (Nought is my character Wendy’s favorite word, so that’s a nod to her.) Do I have inner peace, though? That’s the real question. Do I have Mary energy or Martha energy as I move to the next phase of relationship with this work? The Martha energy–“careful and troubled about many things”–and in some translations “upset,” “fussing,” and “anxious.” The Mary energy? All we know is she’s chosen “the good part.”
At ease. At peace. Thoughtful. Dreaming.
I recently parted ways with my agent, amicably, because despite all my best efforts at doing, I could not create a novel that met the market’s formula. A certain profile of 16 year-old girl was my agent’s aim, and understandably so: many publishers need a story that sells easily, the “easy on the eyes” formula. And ironically, to get to that easy sale some of us must slave.
More irony: I actually think this draft is the best yet, but I haven’t taken time away to make a better judgment.
So, despite all my hard work, I can’t yet tell you what I have to show today. I wonder if the people I know who have less of an agenda and more of a dream are truly the winners in this life. I mean those who laugh and love and don’t stress about whether the goals are checked off on the checklist. If they show up fully present to each moment, they may gain more wisdom in an hour than I might get in a lifetime.
But the nagging Martha voice does whisper in my ear: what would Jesus eat if it weren’t for her? Who keeps those trains running.
I love this blog because it forces me, Martha, to sit still and reflect.
Questions for the Makers in This World:
And for all the Marys out there, Takers taking in the best of the Jesus moments:
Right now I hear a lot of political rhetoric about the “doers” and the Makers–the “job creators”–pitted against the victims, the lazy, AKA the Takers, which is a false dichotomy last time I checked in with humanity. What strikes me most in this debate is that the sound and fury of busy-ness is a particularly American obsession and that some of the busiest people on the planet can be the ones doing the least important things. (Take a look at the shouting folks on the NY Stock Exchange floor and realize that they are moving intangible financial stuff at great risk to their heart health, and you have to wonder who’s really making or taking in that scenario.)
And beyond any assessments of American character and way of life, the fact is we can judge till the cows come home, whether we’re the cow chaperones or not, but you can’t live your life in harsh judgment of others. You can’t stay angry and bitter over who’s doing or not doing their fair share or whether you just did yourself wrong with all this flurry of activity for nought.
All I know right now is this: there can be no bitterness as I walk away from a long period of making art–perhaps unsuccessfully by market standards. Today there should only be sitting at the feet of Wisdom to figure out what the heck just happened.
What about you: are you consumed with Making something or Taking it all in today?