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  • Erica Saville

Martha & Mary Motherhood

It’s a very short story--like so short that if you sneeze you might miss it--but one that ministers to women all over the world and that some of us wrestle with for decades.

Luke 10:38-42 King James Version (KJV) Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.


Many of us in the faith understand Martha to be someone who loves Jesus but concerns herself so much with the work of ministry that she misses the purpose of ministry, that is, to worship God. Here the Savior himself sat in Martha’s living room, and she got so wrapped up in what she thought she should do, that she didn’t stop to just be with Him. Mary, on the other hand, understood and appreciated this limited time offer to sit at her Savior’s feet, so she took it. Both of these women loved Jesus. Martha simply let anxiety draw her away from an opportunity to rest with Jesus.

Do.

Be.

Do.

Be.

This is the dilemma we face a million times a day. We think about what we need to do (the laundry, the dishes, the cooking), but our child needs us to be (present, engaged, excited). Your senses say “must do”, but your soul cries “just be.”


Mommy Martha:

Is stressed because the dishes still aren’t done, but can’t get to them because the baby is asleep on her chest

Mommy Mary:

Is going to leave the dishes for a couple days few hours, might buy some paper plates, and is breathing in the smell of her baby’s head on her chest.


Mommy Martha:

Spends any free moments (which are rare) planning and prepping--tomorrow’s bottles, the next size and season of clothing, which books are appropriate for this developmental level, folding baby laundry, disinfecting toys, grocery shopping (or ordering for delivery--thank you Shipt!), pureeing & jarring solid foods, folding more baby laundry

Mommy Mary:

Asks for help with all of those tasks in order to maximize play time with baby, accepts that a messy house can be a house that’s full of life and laughter


Mommy Martha:

Every morning starts the scramble of getting herself and a baby ready for the day, and interrupts one task to start another. She eats her breakfast standing up while making bottles and packing lunches.

Mommy Mary:

Might not look totally put together (fresh clothes, full makeup, hair done, pretty nails) but slept long enough to feel ready for the day. -OR- She got up early enough to have quiet time and an uninterrupted cup of coffee before anyone else. Side note: I have a feeling Mary asks her husband to wake up a little earlier too in order to help with more of the morning work.


Mommy Martha:

Knows she needs self-care and might even schedule it, but doesn’t prioritize it.

Mommy Mary:

Makes time for self-care and sticks to it


Mommy Martha:

Is worried about how every conversation, act of discipline, book choice, and minute of screen time might affect their child’s development.

Mommy Mary:

Asks God for wisdom in parenting choices, prays for her child daily, and trusts that she and her child will turn out just fine as long as God is involved every step of the way.


My guess is that Martha women become Martha mothers, and Mary women become Mary mothers. Or maybe even Mary women become Martha mothers, because everything I’ve heard from other moms is that motherhood brings about a tough mental workload for all of us. I’ve always struggled with being Martha-like, and often come to her defense in the Biblical story -- surely because in defending her, I am defending and excusing myself. But Jesus was explicitly clear and did not waver in his message: “one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that good part.”


Now as I find myself constantly in a swirling cloud of to-do’s and we-need’s, I feel led to apply the Martha/Mary dynamic to my parenthood. My child is not Jesus--but she is a precious gift that will only be in my house for a little while. This time with her is precious and I want to use it wisely.


I feel like this point is important: Martha’s mistake was not that she did housework. At some point, folks get hungry and will need a meal prepared. They might even want to eat that meal on a clean plate, at a cleared off table. The work IS necessary. Martha’s mistakes were that she worried and she didn’t prioritize. God calls for us to “be anxious for nothing.” Stop worrying. God calls for us to put first things first. “One thing is needful” at a time; when that’s worship, worship. When it’s serving, serve.


My gosh. Even writing this convicts my heart and scrambles my brain. I feel like there's so much more to unpack in this story. So let's?

Coming to a blog near you...

Martha & Mary revisited - tattling on your sister

Martha & Mary revisited - prioritizing


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