Being a Mary and a Martha kind of mom

What the story of two sisters in the Bible taught me about motherhood

This post first ran back on Feb. 5, 2015 on my former blog. While some things have changed — like the age and some of the needs of my children — everything else remains quite the same. In fact, God brought this post to my mind earlier this week as a reminder to not be so busy in doing things for my family that I forget to just be with my family.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard sermons or Bible studies or read devotions on the Mary and Martha story in the Bible. Probably more than I can count. But as God is known to do, sometimes He knocks me over the head about something in a new way and that happened last week. 

I read a devotion about Mary and Martha — you know, the story in Luke 10:38-42 where Jesus goes to visit the two sisters and Mary sits at His feet listening to Him talk while Martha stays busy getting everything in the house ready. When Martha asks Him to reprimand her sister for not helping, Jesus lovingly turns the tables on her and gently reminds her that Mary is doing the right thing. What He wanted and what she needed was to just listen to Him.

This passage has long reminded me to not be so busy doing things that I miss out on just being with and listening to God. But for the first time last week, it spoke directly to my mother’s heart. Zing! Right where I needed to hear it. 

I am the kind of person who thrives on a to-do list. Thrives! I feel most accomplished when I can look back at my day and see how I marked off item after item. On down times, I get antsy if I don’t get things done. I like a mix of being productive and resting when it comes to my downtime. I have a to-do list for every day. And, of course, with two small children there is always lots to be done: cleaning, cooking, laundering, bathing, diapering and on and on the list goes.

I have been feeling quite proud of myself lately for all I’ve been doing. As my son has gotten older and less clingy and more happy and able to play with his big sister, I have gotten a chance to get things done again. I have also felt well enough these last few weeks to do things. 

So I was feeling proud that I’ve been organizing my house in pockets here and there and marking things off my to-do list and keeping up with laundry and making healthy food for my family and on I could go. But you may also know what the Bible also says about pride going before a fall.

Just like that God smacked me over the head and pointed out to me that I needed to make sure I wasn’t only being a Martha to my children (doing all the tasks that surround caring for them), but that I was also being a Mary to my children (stopping to listen to and play with them). Ouch! It’s not that doing my kids’ laundry or making their lunch or cleaning our house are bad or wrong in any way. Certainly those things need to be done. If I don’t do them things get crazy! 

However, God reminded me that I need to stop doing sometimes and just be with my kiddos. Of course I play with them. Of course I interact with them, but how often do I just sit down with them one-on-one and say, “Let’s do whatever you want to do for the next half hour?” Not all that often. 

More often than I’d like to admit, when I play with them I feel antsy to be able to move on to my next task or I think about all that isn’t getting done or I even just think how much I wish I could be doing something else for myself. And many times, I’m half playing and half keeping an eye on the time so that we don’t get off our precious schedule.

The games a preschooler and toddler come up with aren’t always intriguing and fun to me. How many times can I make a Ninja Turtle on a motorcycle run into Batman on a motorcycle before I start to want to pull out my hair?  But isn’t God patient with us? Aren’t I supposed to model my life after Him? He sees me wandering around making a mess of things or doing the same tedious, ridiculous things over and over. 

Fortunately He doesn’t think like I sometimes do and get impatient with my childish ways. Sometimes I think He finds delight in the little things that delight me. Because when I really just let myself and my agenda go and am present in playing with my children with my mind and body, then I am happy to make a Ninja Turtle on a motorcycle crash into Batman on a motorcycle over and over again because I see the joy it brings my son. He is delighted, so I am delighted.

Today I will make progress on my to-do list. I will get laundry done. I will make dinner. I will make sure that the big kid gets to and from preschool on time. I will be a Martha managing my household and family. But I will also work to be a Mary and make sure that I stop to just sit and play with my children. 

I have learned this in my spiritual life (though I am FAR from perfect!). I make time to stop and hang out with God in the mornings (unless my kids are sick and up all hours then I find Him in other ways throughout the day). I need that time with my Father. My kids need that time with their mother. 

I will work to find the best balance I can between Martha and Mary. Some days I may be more one than the other in the natural ebb and flow of life, but I will plod forward doing my best.

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