Martha and Mary. Mary listens; Martha is busy in the kitchen. When Martha complains to him, Jesus tells her that Mary has chosen the better portion. [Luke 10:38-42]
My busy-mom mind plays a coda to this story.
Martha settles down to listen to Jesus. She has completely forgotten about her preparations. Sometime later, the disciples wander into the dining room, exclaiming, “Dinner’s not ready?” Martha looks at Jesus and says, “See. I told you so.”
The Lenten season is a busy time in our household, but this season has been unusually hectic. Take one round-the clock mom job, add the pleasures of potty training, mix in some soccer coaching, and a dash of part-time teaching and you have a recipe for chaos. Lent is supposed to be a time for reflection and devotion, a time of meditation and listening to the Holy Spirit. Oh, that I could retreat to a quiet place and just sit at Jesus’ feet all day.
But who’s going to fix dinner?
A few years ago our women’s Bible study read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. This 17th century Carmelite lay brother was in charge of the monastery kitchen, working full time so that the monks would be free to study, pray, teach, and copy manuscripts. He spent his days endlessly cooking and cleaning. At first he detested his menial job. Who wouldn’t? Then he had a breakthrough.
Brother Lawrence discovered that he was spending too much time worrying about himself, that he needed to get back to loving God. He found that he could do this just as well in the kitchen as in the chapel. He began to seek--to practice--the presence of God in each of his duties. He used his time in the kitchen to focus his thoughts on God. After all, somebody had to get dinner on the table.
The most excellent method of going to God is that of doing our common business without any view of pleasing people but purely for the love of God. (Brother Lawrence)
We ought not to grow tired of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. (Brother Lawrence)
Jesus didn’t chide Martha for preparing dinner or tell her to forgo her responsibilities. Luke 10 is not a denunciation of housework any more than Mark 7 advises against hand washing. Jesus reminded Martha (and us) not to get so worked up about what needs to be done, but to seek and listen to Him, not the worries of a distracted mind.
Perhaps Martha looked back at her kitchen, thinking a cold buffet supper would be just fine and sat down to listen. After all, Jesus was an expert at feeding crowds without much fuss and preparation. Later, as she washed the dishes, she reflected on his words. I’m guessing that no meal at her house was ever the same.
Lent is our time to practice the presence of God in order to carry on that practice throughout the year. I am challenged to do this. There’s a time to sit and listen, but the dishes won’t wash themselves. God is everywhere. And when I seek Him, I will find Him, even among the dishes.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Col 3:23-24)