Reading my Christ Chronological book, I’m following Jesus through His last weeks on earth, as the Gospels record them. It is my Lenten practice.
I pause at Luke 10, and how many times have I read the story of Martha and her sister Mary?
Verse 38 begins, “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.”
I’ve often thought Martha was unduly criticized in this story. The very first thing we know about her is that she opened her home to Jesus. For all the women who ever opened their homes to me, your hospitality and grace was a blessing.
In a day when HGTV broadcasts the finished reveal of newly remodeled homes, I can feel undone and old fashioned in my outdated kitchen and rooms that are not an open floor plan with wide views of the whole house.
We have real people living in real homes, resulting in piles of clothes to fold, scattered toys where children play, dirty dishes on the stove and in the sink, and dust bunnies under chairs and tables. Let’s not even talk about Maisie’s dog hairs that gather at out-of-the-way places.
Opening one’s home is no small matter, especially when we think we will be judged because of perceived imperfections. Comparison kills relationships. So can the desire for perfection.
So I applaud Martha for her hospitality to a baker’s dozen of hungry men.
But my focus in this day’s reading is not on Martha. It’s on Mary. Isn’t she the ideal by which we measure ourselves? Mary is the contemplative who ignores the distractions of much preparation to sit at Jesus feet. Again, I never think I measure up to her undivided attention to her Lord
Reading this familiar story, I simply love both of these women for their different personalities, their ways of relating, and how their gifts serve.
Coming to the end of the short narrative, I pause at Jesus’ words in verse 42: “but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better . . . “
Only one thing is needed. I stop to ponder. Only one thing. This is what has been troubling me for weeks. What is my one thing?
While I moved slowly into January and the new year, February pushed more like a steam roller, days full and body aching. Responsibility and ministry required a lot of me. Cares of the world and concern for people weighed heavy. And my heart searched for direction. I felt drained, wondering about my one thing.
Now it is March, with the hope it offers. Birds sing their springy chorus early mornings. The forsythia bush unfolds yellow blooms one at time. Our little woods is greening after a grey winter landscape. Life is pulsing in the earth and narrow green daffodil leaves break through frozen ground. Change is in the wind.
It is fitting that I finally get clarity to ask the right question. In this present season of my life, what is my one thing? The one thing I am designed to do, the very place I am called to served God right now?
I know I’m not to be all over the place, scattered and thin, trying to be all things to all people. Saying yes to God’s best and the place of His calling means saying no to some good things.
The goal is to grow deep, to flourish like the trees in my yard. They give beauty, shade, shelter, and fruit. Trees grow where they were planted, content to do their one thing well.
Scripture records Jesus asking, “What do you want me to do for you?” He gave credence to people’s desires and longings, the one thing they wanted most. Our dreams often point us in the direction of our callings.
After Jesus visited with Martha and Mary, I read further in Luke 11, and hear Him say, “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.”
My questions don’t go unnoticed. My yearnings can be an arrow pointing me in my direction. My Father wants to be found, wants to show me the way, even if it is just one step at a time.
My one thing may be to open my home like Martha. It might be to sit quietly with Jesus like Mary. As I seek Him, I expect to find Him.
One thing for sure, I will be in His presence, and that will be enough.