I'm a Mary. That's right, I've 'chosen the better way," as Jesus himself told a tired, overworked and frustrated-with-her-sister Martha. Mary was sitting at the dirty, (probably) smelly feet of Jesus, taking in everything about Him, from those dirty feet to His cadence of words and the sometime indecipherable meanings just to be in His presence, listening to Him talk. She probably didn't contribute to the conversation herself (being a woman, after all), but just sat there, soaking it in.
Ignoring the banging of pots in the kitchen, the increasingly urgent tone of her sister's voice as she barked orders to servants (and I'm sure there were servants--these were people of means). Mary could block out what she didn't want to notice. She simply focused her concentration on what interested her.
I get that. When I was a little girl my parents took me to a hearing specialist because they were sure there was something seriously wrong with me. It turned out I wasn't deaf at all. I just wasn't paying attention. My mother LOVED to tell that story, especially when she was mad at me for...well, not paying attention. And my kids can tell you of the many times when I look straight through them when they're talking to me because I'm thinking about who knows what. And my sisters will be happy to tell you of how often I get distracted by conversation when they're working away in the kitchen.
You see, I know, I know as much as I know my own name, that if I'd been in that house in Bethany, I'd have been sitting in the front room, next to those smelly feet. I'd have been gazing up at Him. I wouldn't have even noticed that it was my own house or my own sister who was doing all the work to feed all these dozens of people who'd shown up for a visit (and we're talking dozens and probably for more than just dinner but breakfast and the next dinner and the next as well). I wouldn't have cared a whit what needed doing if there was conversation worth having about life, and LIFE, and LIFE in HIM.
Mary's always been the one we're supposed to emulate, of course. That's what this story of the sisters tells us. So why is it that, once a party ends, and I'm alone in my room, I regret that I was so consumed in conversation that I didn't 'do' more? That I didn't help but only talked? Usually I feel like kicking myself because I haven't pulled my weight or am just plain lazy. I certainly don't feel like being me--being Mary--is the 'better' way.
The question is, then, how do we 'be Mary?' That is, how do I, or anyone, live and work, and do what needs to be done and--at the same time--BE in His presence?
I suppose I just answered my own question by the question itself, didn't I? It's the seamless life. I've talked about this before. What I mean is that when we're standing at our sinks washing dishes, we do so with the same reverence shown when Mary Magdalene washed Jesus' feet with her tears. When we sit at restaurants with colleagues, it's like we're sitting in the Upper Room. Imagine living this way.
This is what it means to be Mary, I think. Some of us are bent her direction, but all of us are meant for her heart. That's what Jesus meant when He spoke to Martha.
Part of my daily devotional is a prayer with these words in it. They've become written on my heart this year. Hopefully, they'll be how I finally learn to be Mary.
'Be in the heart
Of each to whom I speak
In the mouth of each
who speaks unto me
This day be within and
from Celtic Daily Prayer. (morning prayer p.12)