While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
The other day, I needed to switch a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer. As I was passing through the kitchen, I saw that the dishwasher was finished. I opened the door of the dishwasher to let the condensation dry before putting dishes away. I also noticed some clutter on the counters and decided to remove it. After the clutter was gone, I thought it would be nice to wipe the counters clean. That finished, my mind turned to dinner, and I went into the garage to grab some chicken to thaw. As I was preparing to place the frozen chicken in the sink, I realized I needed to clear the sink out. That meant emptying and refilling the dishwasher. It wasn’t until that evening, after dinner was over, that I remembered there was still wet laundry waiting in the wash.
Distraction happens–especially to those of us not blessed with the gift of organization. We go to the grocery store for milk and come home with three bags full of other items. We sit down to quickly respond to an email and get up from the computer 45 minutes later, response still unsent. You know how it goes….
I was thinking about distraction as I was re-reading the story of Mary and Martha. You’re probably familiar with this Biblical tale. Two sisters invite Jesus to supper. One sister hangs out with Jesus in the living room while the other sister maniacally works behind the scenes preparing a Pinterest worthy table spread. Frustrated by doing everything herself, OCD sister (Martha) stomps into the living room and demands that Jesus tell the couch potato (Mary) to come help. Jesus’ response…”Let it go.”
I have always identified myself with Mary in this story–more couch potato than Pinterest maven. I’m content to sit and read a book while something stews in the crock-pot. As far as table arrangements go, we don’t even own a complete set of matching dishes. And yet, a closer look at this story reveals that perhaps I am more like Martha than I thought.
Look at Jesus’ response to Martha’s complaint. He says, “Martha, you are distracted by many things.” Jesus isn’t criticizing her for being organized. He’s not berating her because she’s working. He’s not reprimanding her because she wants to be an excellent hostess. Jesus is pointing out to her that her problem is her priority in this particular moment. Martha, in her desire to be a gracious hostess, has become distracted from the purpose of the visit. She and her family have been given the opportunity to sit in the presence of the Lord, to listen to him, to learn from him, and to be blessed by him. Instead of taking advantage of that opportunity, she’s distracted by a to-do list. Martha is missing the blessing.
How often in the course of our days do we find ourselves distracted from the purpose of the moment? How often do we lose sight of what’s really important? Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus because she knew that was what really mattered in that moment. Mary was blessed because she put her focus on Jesus.
This world is a distracting place. Noise comes at us from all different directions. There is an abundance of busyness. Yet, busyness is not always productive. Like Martha, we can become so distracted by the tasks of this world that we lose sight of what is most important. What blessings are we missing because we don’t take time to sit at the feet of Jesus? Focusing even a small part of our day on spending time with Jesus helps us to prioritize our time. It gives us a greater sense of purpose and direction. Focusing on Jesus helps us to avoid distractions.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a time and place for preparing elaborate feasts and creating intricate centerpieces. It just means that we need to make sure the time spent creating those feasts and centerpieces doesn’t come at the cost of time spent with Jesus.
As we begin to enter into that most Martha-ish time of year, my challenge to you is to make sure you are choosing “the better part”.
Blessings and Peace,