The Big Thing
Mary was a slacker.
There. I said it.
Mary was a slacker and an underachiever and lacked ambition.
Oh, I know — don’t I know — that in side-by-side comparisons, it would be Martha who was found wanting. Martha, who planned and prepared and executed with perfection — He would peer straight through Martha’s heart and say, Your sister has chosen the better thing.
But Martha understood the importance of the Rabbi’s visit that day. She knew the social mores. She sensed as though instinctively the need to honor their guest with a proper meal, in a properly prepared home. This was a really big thing.
And she was the one that got that.
Mary, she was the one you’d find lying on her belly in the grass, picking daisies when there was the wash to do. Always talking about light and color and the moment.
Mary was all about the wonder.
And she never got a thing done.
Mary would no sooner start grinding flour before she was off, leaving the work undone while she ran to the field just to feel the moist soil between her fingers. How she’d carry on about this one kernel of wheat and how the plant came up from the ground all on its own, and Oh, isn’t it just amazing?
Martha, left standing at the door, would finish her own work, then clean up Mary’s mess, shaking her head all the while.
She worried about Mary. What man would want her? Martha had to finish everything Mary ever started. The meals, the housework — all of it. Would she have to go along with Mary even to the marriage bed?
By the time the Teacher came to their home that night, Martha was a wreck. She’d finally sent Mary outside, unable to get her to focus for just ten seconds at time. She’d take just a stroke or two with the broom, then start to twirl around with it like a slender dance partner, then get all caught up in the flow of her robes as the air sent them billowing wild. Now, with all the work to do herself, she wasn’t done.
She wasn’t ready.
He was there in her house – Jesus was right there! – and she wasn’t ready.
She was going to miss her chance to do the really big thing.
And where was Mary?
Just sitting there.
Well, at least she didn’t bring out another bottle of costly perfume they’d worked so hard for and dump it all over Him again. Martha understood the disciples’ outrage that night, counting money in the currency of what we can accomplish.
Even now, her stomach tightened, the breeze of her memory carrying the scent of utter waste.
But Mary just sat there, eyes locked on Him, this time wasting only precious time.
Every swoosh of the dust cloth and chop of the knife only enraged her more. She had to do something about this sister of hers, this slacker. Jesus had to know how hard she was working, how much of herself she’d spent to do the really big thing for Him.
If He only knew, He’d never permit her to just lounge around like that.
She had to wonder sometimes. Mary was such deep thinker, always pondering one thing or another. And so gregarious. If she wasn’t out twirling around, lost in the mystery of something useless, she was surrounded by her friends. Just this morning Martha was halfway home from the market before she realized Mary was gone.
She found her back at the door of a shop, deep in conversation with someone she’d never met!
Didn’t she know the Kingdom was all about action? It was a place for movers and shakers and people who knew how to get things done. Would she never get serious and find her place there?
What Martha knew was this: God had something really big for Mary to do. Huge.
She would move mountains and change the world.
Martha just knew it.
But first, she had to get up and get moving. And she might just as well start now.
So, hands still dripping from the dishwater, Martha snatched the towel and stomped out to the courtyard to demand the Teacher make something of this daydreamer.
She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42, NLT)
Replaying this one from the archives while I work through some Mary-Martha tension of my own, splitting the “big” thing from the “great thing.” More on that to come, I imagine.
Photo: stopping roadside to pull a "Mary," near Big Stone Lake, Ortonville, MN Linking with Michelle today.