Made Like Martha: Good News For the Woman Who Gets Things Done
:An invitation for overachievers to discover what it means to rest as God's daughters without compromising their God-given design as doers. Though she didn't sit at Jesus's feet like her sister Mary, biblical Martha was loved just as...
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:An invitation for overachievers to discover what it means to rest as God's daughters without compromising their God-given design as doers.
Though she didn't sit at Jesus's feet like her sister Mary, biblical Martha was loved just as she was--and you are too. This practical resource invites modern-day Marthas to sit down spiritually as they exchange try-hard striving for hope-filled freedom without abandoning their doer's heart in the process. Doers need to be affirmed in their innate design to do rather than sit, yet also be reminded that they don't have to overdo it in order to be worthy. This book is not an exhortation to add or subtract things off your to-do list, but it is an invitation to embrace the "good" of the Good News. Here is an offer to step into your position as a daughter of God and to enjoy life as a doer.
Katie M. Reid is an author, speaker, and singer who encourages others to find grace in the unravelling of life at katiemreid.com. Katie's writing style is transparent, poetic, and reflective. She has published articles through: Focus on the Family, HuffPost, MOPS, LifeLines, iBelieve, and LightWorkers and is a contributor in Tales of Our Lives: Reflection Pond and the Five Minute Friday book. Her album, Echoes of My Heart, is also available for purchase. Katie delights in her hubby, five children, and their life in ministry. Hot or iced tea and cut-to-the-chase conversations are a few of her favourite things.
Chapter 1: The Big To-Do
I am a Martha fan. A lot has been said, written, and broadcast about dear Martha and her sister, Mary, based on their story in Luke 10. But Martha often gets a bad rap. While I’m not here to rehash what’s already been discussed, I do want to address the misconception that there is something wrong with being like her. After all, Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. Some versions of the Bible say she “opened her home to him” (verse 38, NIV) or “received him into her house” (KJV).
Welcomed. Opened. Received. These words paint a bright picture of hospitality. Martha was probably a mint-on-the-pillow type of hostess. A take-charge woman who accomplished tasks in a timely manner, she was probably the type of gal who managed a myriad of details. She wasn’t idle or lazy and likely spent her days in a flurry of activity. When I read about biblical Martha, I envision her as strong and savvy—a to-do list kind of woman.
Most of the time I am that way too. And being a woman who handles it all takes its toll. In the mirror I see a modern Martha who finds herself frustrated because she’s not wired like biblical Martha’s sister. You know, Mary—the sister who chose what was “better” (verse 42, NIV), the “necessary” thing (NASB), the “one thing” (NASB), the “good part” (NASB)? I try to unzip my design as a doer and shed the skin of efficiency because I interpret the passage in Luke to mean that Mary is the poster child for getting it right. Since I spend most of my days bustling instead of sitting at Jesus’s feet, I feel as if something is inherently wrong with me. Mary is right. Martha is wrong. Good Mary. Bad Martha.
Mary’s temperament seems approved. Martha’s temperament seems discounted. And because I identify with and live like Martha the doer, I feel wrong—or at least not quite right. I like approval, so you can imagine the tug-of-war that transpires within my soul as I grapple with the Mary ideal versus the Martha reality. But the tension goes further and deeper than that.
Although the lie—that love will be withheld or removed if I don’t get “it” right—is buried, I buy into it. (Insert your own “it” here: appearance, job, pants size, housework, marriage, parenting, friendships, and so on.) While getting all these “its” right is important to me, getting faith right is the driving force behind try-hard living. Because daily quiet time, praying without ceasing, and being still are not working out so well, I feel as though my wiring is flawed. I assume that love is limited because I don’t measure up.
My friend Brandi shares similar thinking. While recently chaperoning a field trip at a local bounce house, we wasted no time jumping into deep conversation as our kids raced around the inflatable jungle gym. Brandi said that she grew up knowing she needed a Savior, but the idea that God loved her and thought she was special sounded crazy. It seemed to her that His fond affection was reserved for those who were more talented, more beautiful, or more holy. She was convinced God’s eye did not fall on her as He scanned the great big earth He created. His loving gaze smiled on the missionaries and the pastors and everyone else “doing it right” but not on her—the one who felt like a hot mess and seemed doomed to repeat mistakes.
Brandi also mentioned that several years ago on a particularly heart-wrenching day, she poured out these thoughts to someone she trusted. Despite this woman’s assurance that, yes, God did see her and love her, Brandi still struggled to believe it. As Brandi left her meeting with this woman, she went to a drive-through to buy some chili for lunch. As she waited to pay, she checked her appearance in the mirror. Her blotchy face reflected her broken heart. Her bloodshot eyes reflected her broken spirit. She put on sunglasses to mask her hurt. As she reached out to pay for her meal, the woman at the window stopped her. “The person ahead of you paid for your food. She asked me to give you a message: ‘God loves you.’”
These were the words Brandi desperately wanted to believe. God provided the spiritual food she hungered for. Jesus loved her. She didn’t have to improve herself, go into ministry, or alter her temperament to be adored by the One who made her and saved her. In the middle of a taxing day, in the simplest of ways, God assured Brandi of her position in His heart.
Before her drive-through encounter, Brandi felt she had to be more or be someone else to be deemed worthy of God’s affections. And I wonder whether Martha felt the same way.
Did Martha try to prove her worth through exemplary behavior? Look at what I can do! See all I can manage? My shoulders ache, my tone is edgy, but by golly, I get things done.
That’s how I feel sometimes—actually, many times. My tense posture is a response to external and internal expectations to do more, be more, and look good doing it. Inferiority and superiority duke it out in an ugly feud that leaves me weary and bruised.
Striving, driving, and producing become the fuel to earn love and stay in good standing with the Savior. My good works become a means to obtaining favor, and I’m afraid they’re not good enough. And neither am I. It feels as though my approval is based on how well I perform, and I fear rejection if that performance is subpar.
I cringe at the thought of one of my less-than-stellar days being documented for all to read, analyze, and criticize as Martha’s has been throughout the years.
Jesus corrects Martha because she is worried and bothered about many things. When I read the account of Jesus coming to Mary and Martha’s home in Luke 10, I usually hear verses 41 and 42 as a scolding from the Lord: “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.” I read between the lines, “You’re not enough. You need to improve to be accepted. You need to try harder to be loved. Do better, be better, Martha.”
As I said in a guest post on a blog,
I am hard on myself. I constantly critique, over-analyze, and expect more of myself than is humanly possible. I work hard to stay on top of things…so that I…stay above disapproving gazes.
I strive to be the best woman, the best wife, the best mom, the best friend, and I miss the mark again and again.
Since I walk on a high tightrope of unreasonable expectations, I am positioned to topple at the smallest criticism.
The kids disobey. I slip.
The laundry isn’t put away—ever. I trip.
The book proposal is rejected. I limp.
I fall from the heights and land hard.
My worth gets tangled up in my works, so I walk with a spiritual limp. And because I hold myself to the Mary Poppins standard of being “practically perfect in every way,” I am often discouraged. I’m worn out from trying to be everything to everyone and fed up with messing up. Capable is my middle name, yet if I’m honest, I’m a few yes's away from falling apart.
The bustle causes shallow breathing. The hustle produces a preoccupation with self. The scurry gives birth to stress. The hurry makes my body ache. Words lash out. All this pushing tires my soul. The proving steals peace. The multitasking overwhelms. The merry-go-round of striving leaves my head spinning and stomach churning. The kids need me, the husband wants me, work is waiting, dinner needs a plan, the bills need paying, the house needs dusting—wait, I don’t dust or iron (please, no judging). Something’s gotta give! I want to be enough, yet I’ve had enough of this dizzying ride. There must be another way, a better way, off this Ferris wheel of fret.
I can’t bear another lecture or scolding.
I’m tired. And the sleep isn’t as sweet when I try to carry the world on my shoulders, which ache as my thoughts swirl overhead like a tornado.
When our kids have bad dreams, they race down the hallway, feet pattering from wood floor to blue shag, as they seek comfort at our bedside. Although I sleep closer to the door, they usually go to my husband’s side of the bed. Sleep deprivation is not my friend, and if I am woken up at night, Mean Lady emerges. I have an edge and impatience to my voice. I don’t intend to be this way, but a sharp-tongued beast surfaces when provoked.
The other day I told Adam, “The kids need to stop coming in and waking us up! We need to get a full night’s sleep.”
I anticipated he’d agree, but he said, “We’re their parents, and it’s our job to comfort them when they need it.” Even if it’s the middle of the night. Even if it’s inconvenient.
Then it came flooding back—the time our son Banner came to my side and I pretended to be asleep so he’d go to Adam’s side instead. He was about five years old at the time. In the dark I saw his round face staring at me, seeing whether I was awake. I closed my eyes and stayed quiet, hoping he’d go back to bed.
In the morning I asked Banner why he’d gotten up.
“I just wanted to give you and Dad a hug and tell you I love you.”
Adam had received his hug, but I had missed mine.
The Lord used this incident to teach me something—not to condemn me but to graciously reveal a truth about His character that I forget. Often I feel as if God is mad or disappointed because I haven’t been good enough or haven’t done enough. I assume that He wants to interrupt my well-oiled agenda and have me do something else, something more. Yet, like Banner, He impressed this on me: What if I just want to tell you I love you? What if I want to wake you and tell you how crazy I am about you? You assume the worst, but what if I just want to spend time with you and remind you of My love?
Revelation. What if God wasn’t asking me to be Mary but instead loved me for being Martha?
It is interesting that Banner is the one whom God used to reveal this—the son whose name is a continual reminder of this very idea. “He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (Song of Solomon 2:4, NASB).
Jesus sings love over us, whether we are standing, sitting, or sleeping. Like a banner, He displays His affection. He invites us to unwind in His presence and relax in His care. Although we need sleep, we can experience spiritual rest even when we are awake, even while we are working.
For years I’ve felt guilty for being task oriented. I scold myself for being a doer and then try to improve myself in five easy steps. The thing is, not only are the steps difficult, but they are pretty near impossible. I didn’t choose to be a doer; I was designed to be one. This temperament—this nature—is here to stay. It’s not to be erased but rather to be celebrated and used for God’s glory. Just because we are designed to do doesn’t mean we are inferior or superior to Mary types.
There is nothing wrong with being like Martha or Mary. Both are created by and loved by God. Praise Jesus for both kinds of women! I enjoy my Mary friends. They help me slow down and stay focused on what is truly important when my to-do list threatens to derail my joy. However, I’m equally thankful for my Martha friends. They are my go-to gals for getting things done. One of these friends recently came over and cleaned my fridge until it shone like the top of the Chrysler Building. Glory!
Way back in the Garden of Eden, Satan caused doubt to ring in the ears of sister Eve when he questioned and twisted what God had lovingly instructed about not eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 3:1–3). With his words Satan crafted a picture of a God who was holding out on His daughter. Eve also added to what God said (by telling the serpent that the fruit couldn’t even be touched), kind of like the Judaizers of Jesus’s day, who added extra rules to the rules (which bred pride and rebellion).
Satan has done similar things with doers like us. He has exploited this familiar passage about Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38–42 to convince God’s doer daughters that our wiring is flawed, causing us to doubt we are wonderfully made. The accuser of our souls has spun these five verses in Scripture to imply that we are not fully loved or acceptable unless we become someone else, someone more. We have bought into the lie that we are supposed to improve on this God-given design because it isn’t as adored as Mary’s is. But this is not true!
Jesus never asked Martha to be Mary, and He didn’t ask you to be either. He simply pointed out that you do not have to serve from a place of striving and worry, because He is already enough for you. He is not holding out on you. We have added words to what Jesus said and have compromised parts of who He created us to be in the process. Enough is enough! Pointing out one behavior to improve on is not the same as criticizing the totality of who you are. Let’s stop agreeing with the serpent and others who echo his slippery sentiments.
Let’s not view this passage in Luke as condemnation but as an invitation to freedom. Let’s stand together, confident in who we are and who we belong to. Our doing isn’t the problem. But our motivation for doing is where things get messy. And we aren’t a fan of messes, are we?
Jesus lovingly reminds us of the importance of receiving, not just doing. He invites us to breathe deeply with the lungs He’s laced together.
So let’s pause. Here at the beginning, let’s take a deep, cleansing breath—the in-through-the-top-of-our-heads-and-out-through-the-bottom-of-our-toes kind.
When was the last time you received the love of the Lord, no strings attached, without condition? Rest for a moment, right here amid the mess. Tune in to guilt-free grace, singing a lullaby to your hardworking heart.