Mary, Mary, Martha, Martha

I’m Mary and I’m Martha all at the same time.
I’m sitting at his feet and yet I’m dying to be recognised.
I am a picture of contentment and I am dissatisfied
Why is it easy to work but hard to rest sometimes?

Lament by Audrey Assad

mary and marthaThis comes from a song by an American Christian artist called Audrey Assad – do give it a listen and check her out. I don’t normally enjoy Christian easy-listening but this girl is different. Her songs are honest. They’re real.

I don’t know about you, but I can empathise with her words here. I don’t see in myself an either/or with Mary and Martha but a both/and. Yes, I enjoy spending time with God, being in his presence in the stillness – but sometimes I just need a bit of recognition. I justify myself – “After all God, I do a lot… Especially in comparison to them. I love you more and I really get you in a way they just don’t.” All this shows me is that I crave the love, the glory, the acceptance of others. I am anxious to please, yet anxious to appear fully at peace, content, alive.

It is true that in many churches much work is done by the “faithful few”, but does a cliché like this really build up the body of Christ? It’s reminiscent of that famous passage in 1 Corinthians 12 – nobody wants to be the big toe because, let’s face it, the brain seems much more vital and interesting. But maybe the “big toe” who we write off as being just a bit “socially awkward”, not particularly attractive and worthy to be hidden by a smelly sock, is actually the prayer warrior whose faithfulness is keeping our church walking straight. Maybe that person is the Mary who is taking time to listen and learn, to sit at the feet of Jesus.

Of course Marthas are necessary too.

Proactive doers don’t always seeking their own glory either. But sometimes they prefer distraction as it allows them to shy away from really engaging with God and with others. They are defined by their doing rather than just being and use busyness as a wall to hide behind . The thought process goes along a bit like this:

“Sorry, I’m too busy selflessly serving the tea and coffee to tell you about my week. God seems so distant and I feel so alone, but sure, if I keep up the front no one will know.”

I’m not saying one is better than the other, both come with pitfalls (Mary could be lazy and Martha could be crazy – humour me with the rhyme) and often, like Audrey, we feel like both at the same time.

What it all comes down to is motivation.

So ask yourself: Why am I serving? Is it to please others and to earn their favour? If it is, you will always feel underappreciated and undervalued; service will always be a burden rather than a joy. You will compare yourself with others and point fingers at those who appear to be “doing less” or strive to be equal with/superior to those who are doing more.

At this point, by the Spirit’s prompting, I hope you realise, as I often do, that when doing becomes a stage show rather than a way to make much of Christ and little of self, it is time to repent; to realise the joy of sitting at his feet again, of serving the tea and coffee without dying to be recognised or dying to hide behind the coffee bar.


Are you known in your church solely for what you do or is it accompanied by a vibrant and infectious faith – whether quiet or loud?


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