Walking Our Faith: Are you Team Martha or Team Mary?
Walking Our Faith
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’
“’Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’” — Luke 10:38-42
A year ago, I began getting out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to enjoy a quiet hour of prayer and Bible reading before I left for work. The predawn hour was spent curled in my big chair, writing in my journal and watching the birds at the feeder. It was my favorite part of the day.
Today, I still rise at 6:30, but the hour is now spent preparing breakfast for two other people, getting dressed and hurrying out the door to drive my new high school student to the bus.
I used to head out the door grabbing a cup of yogurt. If I didn’t feel like making dinner, a frozen pizza would be fine. Nowadays, each morning begins with a hot, nutritionally balanced breakfast and ends with the three of us seated around the dinner table, hands joined, heads bowed as we say grace and give thanks by candlelight.
I have a whole new respect for moms who have done this for decades.
My high school student is the niece of a dear family friend in Europe. She is living with me and Mom this year, the second addition to my household in the past two months.
What I find remarkable is how natural my new three-generation household feels considering that up until Mom’s arrival in August, I lived alone, single and childless. Now, I’m busier and more tired than I’ve been in ages, but my heart is full.
The Bible story of Martha and Mary is familiar but perhaps a sore point for some women. This story can come across as, “What type of woman are you? Mary or Martha?” A question meant to type us as either a woman who would be content to sit and learn while others worked or a woman who rushed to serve, to be everything to everyone, at the expense of herself.
But at Tuesday morning Mass, Father Boguslaw made another suggestion: He said we embody Martha and Mary, and our challenge is to integrate these two parts of ourselves.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as the truth of his statement sunk in. It was no longer a competition to be the perfect woman; it was about balance.
I’ve never kept a detailed calendar of places I needed to be. But this week, I created a Google calendar that follows me from my home computer to my phone to work, sending reminders throughout the day so I can keep track of Mom’s doctors appointments, my student’s school events and the appointment to have my dogs washed and my snow tires installed.
I love my new family, but as an introvert, I miss my quiet time, as well. I’m learning it’s necessary to make deliberate choices to combine the most treasured parts of my old life with the practical demands of my new life.
So I’ve also begun creating space for the familiar spiritual practices that mean so much to me. After my 7:30 a.m. bus run, I head to 8 a.m. weekday Mass at St. Mary’s in Breckenridge.
After work, I pick up my student from the bus or the south branch of the Summit County Library, and we connect on the drive home. Then I join my evening prayer group on Zoom and get dinner to the table. Lighting those candles before each dinner is our signal to slow down and appreciate the meal and one another.
Afterward, there is homework to check, conversations over cups of chamomile tea with Mom, and then to bed to read for 30 minutes before night prayers lull me to sleep.
I will have to get up earlier than 6:30 a.m. if I want to find space for quiet time in the morning, which will mean going to bed earlier. But I am also aware of Mom’s enjoyment of our nightly conversations.
Weekends are the same. My old Sunday afternoon routine of staying home now includes an afternoon hike with my student, so we can both benefit by getting outside to explore her new mountain home.
I’m still learning the ropes, learning to care for the needs of others as well as my own. But I don’t think God ever wanted us to be Martha or Mary or to suggest that one woman’s choices are better than another’s.
I’m now learning that in different seasons of our lives, in the many roles we will embody, we are called to integrate our Mary and Martha selves. God calls us to make time for a personal relationship with him — to take care of ourselves spiritually, mentally and physically — so that we bring our best selves to others.
And yes, I am still looking for a three-bedroom Blue River home, wheelchair accessible, with a main floor bedroom for Mom so she can stop sleeping on the couch of my two-bedroom (upstairs) apartment.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at email@example.com.
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