Most of the women I know feel overwhelmed by all the choices in the modern world– too many options, too many expectations on them, too many voices telling them what they need in order to be successful (or beautiful, or healthy, or good). It’s ironic how paralyzed, even trapped, we can feel under the weight of so much freedom.
And oddly enough, it is the example of a couple women from thousands of years ago that shows us the way out. We first meet Mary and her sister Martha when Jesus comes to town, and like any good Middle Eastern family, their home is open to the rabbi and his disciples. But it’s the choices they make that interest us. One does what she is expected to do, what she was taught to do, to serve the guests. She is a good girl. One quietly steps out of the box at the prompting of her heart, and I wonder if she could even put a name to whatever drew her to sit at Rabbi Jesus’ feet, that day? (Is this a sudden daring for her?… Or has she been quietly pushing against custom for years, much to her sister’s dismay?)
Martha’s gift of hospitality was welcomed by tired hungry travelers, and would not even have come under question except for her own questioning. She compares herself, like we do, and finds herself both more and less than her sister (like we do). Martha is bold in her own way, to ask the Rabbi to judge between them, though she feels sure the respected Teacher will land on the side of convention.
Instead, Jesus looked at the two women as unique individuals, saw right into their hearts and pointed out how their choices were shaping them. In a move that surprised all of them, Jesus seized the teachable moment and clearly invited women to become students at His feet along with the men, welcomed them as equals and said that the dishes can wait. So can dinner, for that matter, because the housework will need to be done again tomorrow, but Jesus is here right now. And even the customs and expectations of the world around you can’t compare to the value of knowing God personally. Jesus’ answer to Martha is that women are indeed free to choose how they will spend their lives, and should be careful to choose well.
So we talk about choosing well in our own lives, and whether those choices leave us “worried and upset about many things” or whether they invest in Forever and “will not be taken away.” (Luke 10:41-42) And it’s not a matter of whether we prefer working with our hands or sitting still, or even a matter of whether it is better to serve or to learn. What divides through all the many options we have is the question of what voices we are listening to– where we are getting our identity, what influences are shaping our lives– and whether we are learning from the Teacher Jesus and following after our Master. Any voices but His will leave us scrambled and harried inside, no matter what good things we are doing. He said to the two sisters, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it….” (Luke 10:42) And then to all of His followers,“Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
But it is just as difficult for us as it was for Mary and Martha to step outside of what our culture calls “normal.” We get pushed by the urgency of what needs to be done right now, feel we must keep pace with the rush. And it is so natural to react to the intensity of emotion in the moment. Checking tangible, measurable tasks off our To-do lists is very satisfying. It feels good to gain others’ approval and admiration… to fit in and measure up to the standard of what “everybody is doing,” despite what our mothers told us all those years ago. Resisting all these natural currents so that we can make better choices takes courage, and focus, and a certain amount of self-discipline.
Or maybe, like in Mary’s case, it’s just a matter of becoming hungry enough that you will do whatever it takes to really Live. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
“Hungry I come to You for I know You satisfy
I am empty but I know Your love does not run dry
So I wait for You… so I wait for You…
I’m falling on my knees offering all of me
Jesus, You’re all this heart is living for.”