My husband was kind enough this evening to take care of the kids so that I could hide away in the bedroom and pretend to be out in my Fortress of Solitude in the woods with a 3 headed dog to stand guard and run off intruders. I was just flipping back through my journal and noticed how it is almost all planning, problem-solving, and clarity-seeking things. (I write in the journal mostly to make my mind slow down and focus and to have a record for myself to remember any good ideas I came up with or heard somewhere else.) On our recent “staycation” I spent the whole time planning, avoiding problems, problem-solving, doing the next thing, etc… As much as I don’t want to be this way, I find that I am just always doing, planning, solving, next, next, check, check… Unfortunately, I am living the life John Lennon spoke of when he sang that “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Meanwhile, my husband, being the exact opposite of me in the most excruciating way(God knows what we need!) got his feelings hurt this morning because while he was trying to enjoy his last day of vacation and wanted to small talk with me, I was pressing my foot on the metaphorical gas pedal to go go go!! Showers to take, children to feed, clothe, diapers to change, kitchens to clean, agendas to finalize, items to pack, move move move!!!!!!!
There is a story in the bible that I have a hard time with:
38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; 42 one thing is needful.[a] Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Poor Martha–I can soooo relate. The bitter, tired housewife in me says in her defense, “So who will feed you people, then, so you can continue this little leisurely gathering? I would love to choose the better part, but someone has to do the work, don’t they? No one else is stepping up to do it, so I have to. And now I am getting reprimanded for sacrificing for them?” I wonder what Martha did after this little chat? Sometimes I feel like my husband is Mary, choosing to enjoy the moments, not worrying about the minute planning details and all, and I am mean old stressed out Martha complaining to Jesus about how I have to bear all the burden OF THE WORLD! (Or so it feels like to me at times…) (I write this as my husband is watching the children for me, mind you…)
I suppose the passage is included in the Holy Bible for a reason… I guess I can’t disagree with God. But it is hard–what are we supposed to do? I think that Jesus is not teaching us to neglect to serve or do our duties in life, just that there is a priority on spending time with Jesus, listening and learning from him. If we do prioritize our time at the feet of Jesus, we will do all the active work we must do better and in the right spirit. If we serve, but do it with resentment and do not want to take the time to commune with Jesus, we have chosen the lesser part. Just like my husband this morning would have preferred that I spend some time paying attention to him instead of kicking him in the pants to pull off The Plan, Jesus, the lover of our souls, also wants our hearts, time, and attention. It is not enough to always and only be engaged in outward service. We spend time with those we love.
Mother Teresa, who spent her life serving Jesus by caring for the “poorest of the poor”, knew that in order to be of great service like Martha, she had to also be like Mary and spend much time in prayer each day. She and her sisters kept a schedule that included about 4 hours of prayer throughout the day and 8 hours of work with the poor. You can see the schedule here: Mother Teresa’s Schedule
I know I need to follow her example and have a more consistent and lengthy time for prayer each day. I have little ones and pretty much am on duty all day, but if I make a small sacrifice and wake up when my husband leaves for work at 4 A.M., I might have about 3 hours to cram in the quiet time I desperately need. Matthew Kelly wrote in one of his books (I can’t remember right now, but I think it was called Dynamic Catholic) that people who pray well and regularly are people who show up at the same time and place with a plan every day for their prayer time–maybe a Rosary, scripture reading, Liturgy of the Hours, or something else, but they don’t show up not knowing what they will do. My plan will be to journal-pray about the preceding day–the best and worst parts of it, seeking God’s wisdom. Then to read the daily Mass readings and pray with those. Next, to read anything else I am drawn to read, including some spiritual book. And usually as I read, something will spark me to journal-think about it. I sure do hate the idea of getting up that early, but there is no other way right now, and I really need to find my inner Mary. Martha is getting out of hand here… But we know her as Saint Martha, so she found her way to eternally contemplating Jesus.
Sts. Martha and Mary, pray for us!