"Every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, 'This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!' And each day, it's up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart, and say, 'No. This is what's important.' " - Iain Thomas
I love the topic of intimacy with Jesus. One of my favorite things in the world to do is just sit at His feet like Mary in the Bible, in my Secret Place with Him. In fact much of my writing deals in the context of the beautiful attributes of Mary resting at the feet of Jesus. Martha, however, is an important part of how I came to love the Secret Place in the first place, and although her mindset and behavior is not ideal we do know that she was important to Jesus. And she has been important to me in my journey into and beyond intimacy with Him.
" She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations...." (Luke 10:39-40, NASB)
When I was about four or five years old, I was a huge "tom boy." My parents and I lived in the country in South Louisiana where the grass is tall and green. The humidity is 100% pretty much 100% of the year, and the sun shines incredibly bright during the summer (usually after a little afternoon rain shower). We have Live Oaks in Louisiana - tall, strong trees older than you'd ever believe that usually have Spanish Moss dripping from nearly every branch. These are the best kinds of climbing trees and perfect for little girls like me who adored nature more than dolls and dresses. Being outdoors was enchanting for me as a child, and I always found a great sense of peace and extreme joy when I was able to run around wildly through the grass while chasing butterflies or dragonflies. Even at a young age I was certain that the Spirit of God lived in the outdoors, and I would oddly find myself connecting with Him and often drew pictures of myself and Jesus in fields of wildflowers. I don't know how my little mind could comprehend all this, but I somehow understood that finding this place of rest and contentment was my source of greatest joy, and was more important to my soul than anything else.
Then I got to school and started making friends with other girls and boys who preferred dolls or sports. In first grade my mom got a call from a very concerned Principle because I was convinced that I could talk to worms and they would understand me. My imagination was incredibly vivid, and at age seven I was writing plays, painting pictures and designing homes for all the little "pets" that I would find in the wild. My favorite moments growing up were always in the grass and sunshine, just laying out watching the clouds go by and feeling a sense of awe and wonder at how God could make such beautiful things. I knew that other kids made fun of me and did not understand, but I loved being able to just be ME when I got home from school. I was blessed to have parents who loved and encouraged these things in me.
I felt very different from other kids around me, and somehow being different seemed "wrong." A group of friends and I would walk to class together at university, and they nicknamed me "Pokey" because I was always a few steps behind everyone, being a "slow poke" while taking in the beauty of nature on our Louisiana campus. This name never bothered me until I got to Bible College a few years later, where I quickly caught on to the fact that living with my head in the clouds and flowers did very little for building the kingdom, and I therefore had to become more focused and prepared in order to do the things that God had called me to do.
Like Martha, I became distracted by all my preparations. There was little room for intimacy at the feet of Jesus or enjoyment of God because I had to prove to myself that I could do it. Somewhere along the way I believed the lie that "Pokey" had to die so that a radical Kingdom builder could arise. Yet what I was really doing was moving further and further away from who God really created me to be.
I recognize that not every person is as "right brained" and creative as I am. Not every little girl or boy grew up liking bugs and worms, and I know plenty of people who would have a full-blown asthma attack at the thought of smelling wild flowers in a field of tall grass! But don't miss what I am saying here. My Secret Place looked a certain way because it was built for me and how I am wired. There are plenty of left-brained, type-A personalities that would have a Mary experience that is vastly different to mine.
The point is that somewhere along the way in growing up for many of us, something became skewed our thinking. I believe that most of us were born a Mary and then became a Martha when we fell into the trap of striving. Whether the striving was to please God, or others, or just to make ourselves feel better, this kind of response to life is not what we were created for.
The Lord showed me recently that many warriors in the faith have become Martha's without realizing it. I was one of them. Ready to pick up my sword at a moment's notice and fend off the devil behind every corner, I struggled to understand those who would appear to be at peace during the war. I actually grew offended at times at the Mary's who would run first to Jesus and rest at His feet instead of grabbing some weapons and following me into the battle. There was a season where I always calling the prayer warriors before even speaking to God about it myself. I would spin my wheels repenting and begging for God's help and then wrongly judge others for not feeling the "urgency" and being as flustered as I always seemed to be.
And yet I was always one of the first to grow tired, weary and overwhelmed. I had learned how to wield my sword, and now I needed to learn how to allow Abba to fight for me. Jesus may correct a Martha, but He will never condemn her.
Jesus said to Martha that what Mary was doing was the "good thing." At His feet is where we belong. There are times when He calls us to pick up our swords and fight, but He never asks us to go flailing into battle without first obtaining everything we need from Him. We are defined by Jesus alone, and not by the size of our sword, the taste of our meals or how clean our metaphorical kitchens are. At His feet is where the cares of the world grow small and who He is appears biggest.
For too long the Western culture has focused on striving and working hard to get somewhere or make something of ourselves. This has definitely contributed to a Martha mindset even within the Church. We work and we build and we attend meetings and we pray like warriors, and yet sometimes we forget to just take deep breaths, relax and enjoy His creation. We often miss out on the miraculous because we get stuck in a cycle of trying to conjure up signs and wonders and yet forgetting it is all by faith. And faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word (Romans 10:17). Jesus IS the Word (John 1), and intimacy with Him is where we hear Him clearest.
God has created us to be extraordinary, and that always starts at His feet and in our own Secret Place with Him. Mary knew this well. We desperately need His touch. We need to be reminded who we are, Who He is and just how loved and accepted we are. We need Him - but He needs us as well. He is the great Creator, and part of His personality is pure love and intimacy. That is in US, as well. Everything we need is in Him, and He loves His intimacy with us.
Don't try to suppress the Martha - just walk in the identity of a Mary. THAT is who you are.