Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.
Luke 10:39-40a NLT
What an amazing story. Two people, each with a distinct approach to Jesus’ visit. One in her busyness, the other in her stillness. As a young adult, my approaches to Christ were all about my efforts in service. I thought I added some value to God’s plan through my endeavours. Indeed, I compensated for a lack of intimacy with God through my efforts on behalf of God.
In those early days I near despaired as I struggled to keep a “quiet time”, as it was called, every day. I felt guilty if I missed a day. I also felt guilty that when I prayed, I was bored senseless a lot of the time. It was as if I was talking to four walls and myself. I was looking for some sensory feedback that I wasn’t getting. At least when active I got both sensory feedback and some measurable outcome.
Of course, there is nothing I can think, plan or do that adds anything to the work of Christ in both my life and throughout the world. This was something Mary appeared to grasp, while Martha continued to serve. Yet, there is a time simply for considering all that God has done and continues to do. It’s not that we’re not called to service, but that service is a witness to the grace of God rather than a means of either increasing that grace or proving my worth.
Mary and Martha represent two sides of the discipleship journey. There is that great joy of service in response and obedience to God’s invitation. There is also my need to discover the place of silent contemplation of God’s presence, without distraction.
Mary and Martha are not in competition with each other. Rather, they invite you to enjoy God through both service and contemplation. All of your Christian discipleship is a shrinking of self so that so much more of God’s reality may both be experienced in and revealed through your life. This journey of quiet contemplation has come to me later in life, yet it has deepened my understanding of God and others in a rich way.
Are you most like Martha, or Mary?
Heavenly Father, help me to enjoy you through both service and contemplation.