Day 20: "Societal expectations."

"Jesus twelve disciples were all men, but they were not his only disciples."

—From Ch. 20 ("Mary, Mary"), Jesus Journey

As a younger woman, I didn’t struggle much with the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. I was a wannabe Mary. An arts student at university, I would spend many hours searching out the face of Jesus in prayer and scripture, literature and philosophy.

In my present life as a mother, co-running a busy household with hungry hobbits to feed, I confess I have often sympathised more with Martha. After all, I reason, somebody had to cook dinner that day.

I can’t imagine cries of protest coming from the guests when Martha emerges from the kitchen with a fragrant, home-cooked meal at the end of a long day. 

Trent’s reflections on this interchange have helped me see that Jesus is not simply reprimanding the actions of one sister and applauding those of the other. He goes beneath the behaviour to probe into their hearts.

"Martha, Martha," he says, "You are fretting and fussing about many things."

Martha was clearly panicked and operating out of fear.

"Master, don’t you care…?"

How familiar her words are to me.  How familiar the accompanying emotions of self-pity, panic, and rage that rear their ugly head when I operate in a graceless pursuit of worldly usefulness and human praise. Striving to be the hostess-with-the-mostest, the capable parent, the faultless professional.

“Only one thing matters. Mary has chosen the best part, and it’s not going to be taken away from her.”

As Trent points out, Mary’s desire to learn from Jesus, to be around him, clearly overwhelmed any pressure to conform to the societal expectations of her as a woman. This is what Jesus affirms in Mary. Her resistance to that same temptation he himself had contended with in the desert—the temptation to pursue an identity that pleases others, instead of responding to the invitation of God.

Mary's resolve liberates her to discover an identity no human can bestow on her or take away from her. And, in affirming this heart in Mary, Jesus is inviting Martha to do the same.

That invitation. That promise. I long to reclaim the heart of the disciple Mary, to look up into His face again. Whether I am emptying a dishwasher or sitting at a boardroom table, I want to choose the best part.  

Today's guest post is by Angela Lake: "I am an Egyptian/Brit, married to a New Zealander, living outside Liverpool in the UK. Consequently, our three daughters all speak fluent Scouse. I met my husband on a factory floor fourteen years ago, and we have been somewhat preoccupied with factories ever since. We help companies address modern slavery in their supply chains: On most days, I love to cook dinner for my family."

Photo credits: "girl" & "preparing dinner"—Chelsea Hudson / "red flowers"—Bill Pekrul