Practicing Mary, With A Martha Gift by Jayme Wood

I took my position, in front of the kitchen sink, scrubber in one hand, soap in the other. Ready to take on the pile of dishes stacked up beside me. The rest of our group was gathering in the living room, prepping for another rich conversation, around the book of Hebrews. Our gracious host, a dear friend of mine, reminded me, like she does every week, to “not bother with those dishes”, but I smiled, as I do every week, and kept on with my natural inclination.

I’m a self-proclaimed Martha.

For years, I blamed it on my mom. The woman has one gear and it is full steam, from the time she gets out of bed, to the time she lays her head back on that pillow. I was raised to sweep the house before leaving for vacation. A made-up bed, is a better one. And, the home for clothes is in the drawers and closet…not on the floor. Cleanliness was a good stewardship of what God had given us, and it really did teach me to appreciate a sense of order.

As I grew, I realized my mom wasn’t at fault for instilling this into me. It was in my fiber. When she wasn’t there to tell me to wash the dishes before going to bed, I would literally stare at the ceiling, sleepless, until it was done. I would spend more time cleaning my little one-bedroom apartment, before I left for a time, than actually packing for the trip. And, marriage didn’t change one bit of those tendencies. It did involve another person, though, who is still confused about why I find the perfect time to finish unloading the dishwasher, right in the middle of dinner prep.

I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember but began my personal relationship with Him when I was eight years old. So, to say I am acquainted with Bible stories puts it mildly. Sure, there are those I read now, as an adult, and laugh with unbelief that it is a new one to me, but the story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus’ sister, does not fall into that category. And, sadly, her story didn’t come with warm, fuzzy feelings, when I would rehearse it over in my head. I pictured a grouchy old woman, wearing an apron and carrying a broom. Her tone always condescending. Her facial expression always tight and unfriendly.  

And, then one day, I looked in the mirror and realized I was her.

I like clean things. I get annoyed when messes are left undone. I thrive in order and planning and structure. I follow a strict routine, from the order of when I brush my teeth, to the type of snack the kids can have, after school. I despise cancelations. I struggle with spontaneity. “Going with the flow” never comes out of my mouth. And, pity the fool who invites me to a coffee or play date, during my kids’ mandatory Quiet Hour.

Coincidentally….or EXACTLY as God would plan it, our life group, through our church, took a spiritual giftings test. I almost rolled my eyes with annoyance. Really? I need to take ANOTHER test to tell me where God has gifted me? Isn’t it obvious? I have been doing this thing for 35 years. I know where I am gifted. Only because I am a sucker for any “learn about me” questionnaire, I followed suit and found out something I never knew.

I have heard our personalities and giftings can not only mature over the years but change. Seasons of life, circumstances that we endure have a way of building up something different in us, that we didn’t realize was there. When I took that test, I sat back and laughed – well, what d’you know! A stubborn girl CAN grow.

Two of my highest giftings are administration and hospitality. The ability and giftedness to organize and create space for people to feel welcome. The desire to use structure for good and cleanliness for warmth. The soul, mind, and body comforted and encouraged by douses of guidance and friendliness. Martha, all of a sudden, took on a completely different look. She seemed in control, yet peace-filled. Content with responsibility, yet championing it for the benefit of others, and not to be seen by them.

Then, at a weekend retreat-away with Randy, I heard the Lord’s voice, as clearly as I ever have. He had removed distraction after distraction – making an emphatic point that this time was for He and I. And, in His gentle way, He spoke.

The way I gifted you, as a Martha, is intentional and I think it is beautiful. I delight in the giftings I gave you and they please Me. But, this weekend, you are to sit at my feet, as Mary.”

What a moment of validation. My Creator, reminding me of His pleasure, His purpose, in creating me how He did. And, those areas where I felt my giftings were not “the better”, He beautifully covered me in the confidence that those gifts had meaning and could be used for His Kingdom.

But, just as important as being content in my gifts, He reminded me how obedience should shape every decision I make. Yes, He has given me specific gifts. But, if they are not being used under the direction of His Spirit, they are useless. And, for that weekend, the stretch, for me, was sitting, being still, and intentionally gleaning.

Girlfriends, we live in a culture, even among our Christ-believing friends, where the more hectic your schedule is, the more glorious your heavenly reward. The more boxes you have checked off, at the end of the day, the more productive you feel. We feel judged by our to-do list, as if it were a means to our sanctification. And, this should not be so.

Let’s practice some deliberate obedience. Resting in how He has made us – intentionally and with great care – flourishing in those giftings, with the freedom that comes with being who He has made us to be. Yet, with a watchful eye and sensitive ears to hear when He turns our little face towards His, asking for something different.

We will be better for it. We will stop framing the box around who we think we should be and allow our Creator to fan the flame of new dimensions with Him. I welcome you to join me. This adventure should be a crazy one.

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