Choosing The Better Portion

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Lately, I’ve been guilty of neglecting my own soul in order to get things done.

I love being productive, love having a clean house and all my ducks in a row, love having my school work graded and planned, love having fun with my daughter and feeling connected with my husband… I could go on and on, but the moral of the story is that I feel most okay when everything in my life feels in control.

And yet the last few weeks, I’ve just felt fried, like I’m running on empty and failing in every area. I hate that feeling because regardless of whether it’s true or not, I feel like so many other people are able to keep it all together, and I’m over here just failing at life.

I was trying to explain my angst to my husband, who often moves through the world much slower and more gently than I do, and when I said, “I feel like I have to prioritize all these things over my own self and soul,” he looked at me and very genuinely asked, “Do you realize how backwards that sounds?

  • How can you get things done well if you’re running on empty all the time?
  • Would your students rather have their papers graded immediately or have a teacher who is happy and able to really see and care for them?
  • Do you think our kid would rather have a spotless house or a happy, healthy, present mom?
  • Do you think I’d rather have a wife who always has everything all together or just you as you are?

And as he asked these things, I thought of two of my favorite women in the Bible: Mary and Martha.

These sisters were some of Jesus’s closest friends, and when he came to visit, Martha got straight to work making her home a place of hospitality. I imagine her doing all the same things I do in those situations: keeping myself busy with cleaning, chopping, cooking, constantly looking at my house with a critical eye.

And all this time, Martha’s sister Mary just sits “at the Lord’s feet, listening to his teaching” (Luke 10:39). When Martha realizes this, she storms up to Jesus and tells him to get Mary to get up and help her. Yet Jesus answers her gently saying:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary had chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 41-42).

In my conversation with my husband, I’d been neglecting the same good portion Jesus reminds Martha about. Yes, I can usually check the box to say I’ve had my quiet time each day, but have I slowed down enough to let God speak to me? Have I prioritized my image of perfection over the love and grace God has for me as I am?

Time is so short, and even though I want to do well and take care of my home/be responsible with the work I have to do each day, I want to learn to work in God’s rhythms, take on his easy yoke, and trust him with all that I do, believing the most important thing I can do is stay connected to him and do what I can throughout the day, letting other things go until I can get them tomorrow.

Maybe that means a few dishes left in the sink or a few toys left on the floor so I can get more sleep for the night. Maybe that means I don’t get as many papers graded each day, but if I stay connected to God, if His love can actually flow through me out to others instead of being restricted by my stress, I’d say that I’m finding the better portion, the joy of my soul, the deep love of God that won’t be taken away.

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