It was the end of a long day in which frustrating events had strung together like beads on a necklace, an ugly mismatched necklace I’d only be wearing in a fashion nightmare. We were having cereal for dinner. In the midst of sternly voicing frustration over something child-related, I spilled the Life on the floor. Our favorite cereal strewn across the linoleum like a peace offering scattered on an altar.
As I knelt to pick my Life up off the floor, my two-year-old offered his version of help (which resembles hindrance more than aid). While separating the Life from the dirt and grime, meaning came marching into the mundane. And here was the deep revelation: I’d much rather be picking Life off the floor literally than figuratively. My relationships are in order. My finances are in order. My health is in order. My house is in order, more or less. If you can’t cry over spilled milk, you certainly can’t cry over spilling something dry and easy to pick up.
When life gets spilled out (jobs or health lost, relationships busted, property damaged) we can respond in two ways. Most often, we put on our work clothes and do some cleaning – spiritually, relationally, whatever. We reorder our hearts and minds. We try harder. And usually, to our dismay, things just get more complicated.
Jesus looked at a stressed-out woman who was employing these very tactics and said (lovingly, I’m sure), “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her,’” Luke 10:41-42.
Two Greek words are used to refer to Martha as worried and troubled, and bother imply emotional anxiety. Martha’s concern goes beyond the annoyance that Mary, a female, is sitting listening to Jesus instead of helping to prepare the meal. Martha is deeply upset about something. Her heart is simmering anxiously. Jesus sees into her spilled life and speaks of Mary’s choice, not to put Martha down, but to show her another way.
Mary’s humble way is an admission of need. Whatever was bothering her in life, she set it at the feet of Jesus. She listened. She ceased activity. She took advantage of the moment when Grace was present.
How do you pick your life up off the floor? Like Martha or Mary? With dependence on human effort or God’s grace?
I felt like Martha in that moment of gathering expensive name-brand cereal off my floor. I was like a frantic mother hen working to keep a grip on things, to maintain control at the end of a wearisome day. I had another choice. I could (metaphorically) sit at the feet of Jesus. I could quiet an outwardly chaotic moment with an inner submission to grace.
There is a better way than striving. And that better way has a promise attached to it. Jesus told Martha that Mary’s “good part” would not be taken from her. When we choose grace, it sticks. It doesn’t go away and no one can snatch it from us.