Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations she had to make, so she came up to him and said, “Lord, donʼt you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone? Tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:38-42 (NET)
Whenever I hear this story, I tune it out. It reminds me of the mornings when I come downstairs to write only to find a disaster in my kitchen. It’s particularly annoying when I know I specifically instructed one of my children to take care of it the night before. And then there are the times when no one can remember whose week it is so the solutions is just to leave it. My personal favorite is the late night culinary experiments. More cakes get baked at my house between midnight and three a.m. than any other time.
I try to get around the mess by moving a few things to make my morning smoothie, but end up completely cleaning the kitchen. So by the time I finally get to my office to write, I’m fuming. Sometimes, I manage to get over it fairly quickly and can get my writing done. But more often than not, I’m too busy sulking about the fact that no one respects my writing time to get anything done.
So needless to say, I totally get Martha.
But I had an epiphany.
Martha was worried and distracted by many things and Jesus responded by saying only one thing is needed. He made a specific distinction between many things and one thing. I use to think the contemporary version of sitting at the feet of the Lord was to drop everything I was doing, and spend hours studying the Bible in-depth. But that never seemed possible to me because if I did that nothing would ever get done at my house. But fortunately our God is a practical God. He wasn’t suggesting we never do our work. He simply instructs us as to how to accomplish more with less distraction and worry. He says Mary has chosen the best part. She stopped and listened. She focused on one thing.
The Lord speaks in a quiet voice and if we are distracted and worried we won’t be able to hear Him. Maybe the lesson in the story of Martha and Mary is to not get caught up in our distractions, but to spend time with the Lord first so that he can direct our steps.
I tried it recently. I read my devotional and then I asked, “What would you have me do today?” When I got done with my prayer time, it was clear to me that I should spend the day sending off submissions.
The kitchen was a mess, but I ignored it and went straight to my office. I finished up the revision of my short story, sent off six different submissions and wrote out a revision plan for a chapter in my novel. By focusing on one thing at a time I got much more accomplished. And was less worried and distracted and nicer person to be around.
Take some time today to stop and listen. Your day will go much smoother.