i've been thinking a lot lately about the story in the Bible about mary and martha. (luke 10: 38-42) the story goes that the sisters opened up their home to Jesus as he was traveling. one sister, mary, sat at the feet of Jesus and simply basked in his presence. as he talked and shared, she listened with rapt attention.
the other sister, martha, is what i picture as a chicken with her head cut off. the passage tells us she was "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." she ran here and there making sure everything was in its place. i can't say i blame her. if i were in her shoes, i think i'd be just a frantic to make sure everything was prepared, clean, organized.
the passage continues with martha finally coming to a point of exasperation. she complains to Jesus that her sister has done nothing to help her and that she has been the one pulling everything together while mary simply sits in his presence. Jesus calls to her by name, "martha, martha". he tells her that she is worried and upset about many things but only one thing really matters. he points out that what her sister is doing-resting in His presence-is far more important than the to-do's that she is consumed with.
this passage became very real to me a few weeks ago as i related exactly to martha. i had been in this frustrated rut at work trying to figure out the balance between people vs. my tasks. it seemed that i couldn't get a single thing done without getting interrupted by someone or something. i was short with co-workers, i was hurried with patients, i was agitated with myself. i kept trying to give it over to the Lord but not even an hour into my workdays, i found myself back in my black hole.
one day, in the midst of the phone ringing and patients checking in and out, i noticed that a co-worker was standing at the front desk having a conversation with a friend. immediately i was annoyed. here i was running around trying to get everything done and my co-worker was more focused on an unnecessary conversation. i rushed by her in irritation hoping she might take notice of my exasperation and rush to my aide. she continued talking.
later that same day i was driving home from work, going over the events from the day. in what i have been referring to as my "epiphany moment" the story of mary and martha entered my mind. it doesn't happen very often that i relate so closely and completely to a passage of Scripture, but in this moment, that's exactly what happened. i was martha. it was scary obvious. my attitude, my actions, my exasperation were all exactly the same as hers.
my frustrations over the previous weeks had been stemming from my ill-aligned priorities. i was placing projects over people. i was focusing on the task and excusing the people in front of me with the wave of a hand. "can't you see i'm busy here?" "don't you see that i have a million things to do and being present with you is not one of them?" i cringe as i think about my actions. here i am trying to live as a witness in my workplace, and i am not accepting the opportunities for conversation and relationship when they so frequently present themselves.
since the Lord so clearly brought this to my attention, He has been helping me on a daily basis to place people at the top of my to-do list. some days it is still a struggle. some days i have a pile of papers on my desk that i just want to whittle down. but i remind myself of the two sisters and i know which one i want to be.
thank you to my co-workers who have put up with me when i've been at my worst. and thank you especially to my dear co-worker who took time to have a conversation with a friend during a busy moment.