I’ve always believed that, for the most part, I was a Mary, choosing the “better” things…the “one needful thing.” Sitting at the feet of Jesus is the most important thing I can do. It’s the one thing that enables me to live a life of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. It’s the one thing that keeps me grounded and pointed in the right direction. But lately I’ve been feeling more like a Martha.

Doing, doing, doing--life is filled with things I must do: outside projects, inside projects, the business and must-dos of life. You would think a single retired person would have lots of disposable time—some people think that—even I used to think that. After all, I don’t have to cook if I don’t want to, I don’t have family laundry to do, I don’t have to go to work every day and I don’t have a lot of commitments. I purposely keep it that way so that I have plenty of time to spend on the better things…the one needful thing; yet, to-dos manage to weasel their way in, on a relentless mission to crowd out the one needful thing.

I try to read and have quiet time first thing in the morning, to fuel my spirit and lessen the chance of missing it altogether as things crowd in, but it’s often a battle. I begin to think of the things that must be done, the phone calls I have to make—and then there are the “interruptions”—a text, an email, my cat. Stop, refocus, put the phone in the other room, start again, stop. This mind-battle extends the time and then I’m pressed with the thought that the cool morning is rushing by and the afternoon is hot—different tasks to do accordingly, I’d better start. This is an on-going exercise in discipline, focus, and an opportunity to allow the “one thing” to reign over the onslaught of must-dos. Some days are better than others.

How do I manage the things I must do while keeping the “one thing” at the forefront? Must I really do these things, or do I just want to do them? Do I have to be a Mary or a Martha?  I feel both of them pulling at me, and they both feel right. The Mary in me needs to connect with God to keep my inner life in order. The Martha in me can’t forget the must-dos that keep my outer life in order.

Putting these thoughts into words, it’s becoming a bit more clear. I see a somewhat blurry picture of both Mary and Martha serving Jesus. Mary gave him her full attention, honoring him as King; Martha prepared food to nourish his body, which was a sacrifice, because someone had to do it. Mary chose the one eternal needful thing, but Martha carried on with the earthly tasks necessary at the time. And so, in this heaven-on-earth life, I must learn to balance the two in my personal life.

Something that helps me achieve balance is to align my inner and outer life as much as possible. Because of my “Mary time” with Jesus, I have a mission, a calling, a purpose (whatever you want to call it) that I hold to by faith. Most of the things I do are in some way tied to that—even though they’re earthly tasks, they’re meant to help me fulfill my inner purpose directly or indirectly—this is Martha at work. Sometimes I get off track (read my Nov. 2019 story “What Matters Most”), but if I listen, God brings me back. Some seasons are busier than others—spring and fall is a busy time for gardening, plus I have a few additional projects I’m working on—I guess that’s why I’m feeling a lot like a Martha right now.

Sharing these thoughts with you has brought me peace. I’m reminded that my busy-ness is for a purpose and it’s all good. God is good, always present, always listening, waiting for me to sit at his feet for a moment whenever and however I can.

Well, it’s time to go…must-dos waiting.

Mary and/or Martha
by Dina Cavazos

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