The Martha and Mary in me



Recently, my five-year-old showed me an activity sheet she had completed during the children’s service at church. The page was titled, “Do you put God first?” and contained two sections: “First” and “Then.” Beside the word “First,” my daughter had pasted pictures of children praying, reading the Bible, and listening at church.

In the category labeled “Then,” she had glued images of kids picking up toys, making beds, and taking out trash.

I felt convicted to the core: how many times had I placed my to-do list before God?

During this season of life, I sense God calling me to nurture my children and be present with them in each moment. Yet, when I feel crumbs under my feet, see dishes stacked in the sink and hear the laundry buzzer ring, I feel an anxious urge to complete those tasks immediately.

When I do that, I miss the calls of my children: “Mommy, watch me. Mommy, play with me. Mommy, can you help me?”

I feel like Martha in the Biblical story to which my daughter’s worksheet alludes. When Jesus visited sisters Mary and Martha, Mary “sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me’” (Luke 10.39-40). 

It was natural for Martha to want the house in order so she and her sister could host Jesus, but an immaculate house was not what Jesus considered important: “The Lord said to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her’” (Luke 10.41-42).

The “one thing” we truly need is Jesus. We need to place Him above everything else in our lives. Mary was able to be fully present with Jesus, but Martha was unable to. Jesus wasn’t chastising her for trying to be a good hostess; He was gently reminding her of her true priorities.

We all have endless to-do lists, and we are not disobeying God by preparing meals or folding laundry. In fact, we need to set aside time for these responsibilities. However, when we let distractions dictate our days, instead of focusing on how God needs us in the moment, we miss out on what’s really important in life.

When I feel the tug between chores and children, I say a quick prayer and ask God where He wants me at that moment.

And when I listen to His answer, whether He guides me to work a puzzle with my kids or sweep the floor first, I know I am doing His work.

When we choose God first, He will lead us where He wants us.

Andrea Goebel, her husband and two children live in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. They are members of St. Philip Parish in Posey County.