Another Look at Mary & Martha
Hi again! Life has been a whirlwind of craziness at our house these past couple of months. With a new calling, homeschooling, a new baby, and a few teenagers, I've found myself more like Martha than Mary lately. And though I have had moments of peace and the spirit, I haven't had time to sit in it awhile, to savor them, as Mary seemed to do at Jesus' feet that day.
In thinking of this I wondered what other accounts of Martha we have and in each one have learned a little bit more about the personalities of Mary and Martha. Generally when discussing these two women in the scriptures we devolve into subjects such as comparison, judging others, and balancing our lives by taking moments to hear the word of the Lord in our lives. A dear friend of mine recently wrote a beautiful post touching on these themes.
After the incident where the Savior seems to reprimand Martha (Luke 10), we read of the death of the sisters' brother, Lazarus. As Jesus approaches, Martha runs out to meet him and asks, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (John 11:21)." Again, we see Martha seemingly complaining about her situation. She and Jesus then have a discussion of the resurrection and Martha testifies of the truth of that principle, believing Jesus will make things right.
And then something I hadn't remembered happens. Martha goes in to Mary and tells her Jesus is asking for her. Then Mary asks the same question, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died (John 11:32)." Interestingly, the Lord does not have the same discussion with her that He had with Martha. Instead, "He groaned in spirit, and was troubled...Jesus wept (John 11:33,35)." Do we think when Mary asks this same question that she is complaining? Why do we think so with Martha but not with Mary? And why does Jesus have a frank conversation with Martha but not the same with Mary?
Oftentimes I think we negatively refer to ourselves as Martha (even as I did above). Yet, Martha is a person of action and problem-solving. She wants to put her hands to the grindstone and get things done. (In a later account, Martha is again serving the dinner while Mary is anointing the Savior with oil. See John 12.) To me she has an inquisitive mind and wants to discuss the principles of the gospel and see them applied. Mary, on the other hand, appears to be more contemplative, more tender and sensitive. Maybe she's more of an observer rather than an active seeker in the same way Martha is. Either way, Jesus dealt with them in their own way. He knew how they needed to be comforted in their time of need.
Likewise, He will speak to and comfort each of us in the way we hear, the way we need. He knows us each so intently. Yes, there are times when we need someone to cry with us and other times when we need someone to speak frankly to us. But we also each have our own unique personalities and the Lord knows that! He knows what we need to hear and HOW we need to hear it. I tend to doubt this sometimes. I wonder why I don't hear things the same way someone else might. Or I doubt the way He is speaking to me because maybe it's just me being too sensitive or something. I want to gain that greater confidence in myself and my Savior to know His voice each time. I want to trust that He does know me, personally and intimately. He knows me enough to come to where I am and be the friend I need.
I've just loved this new perspective on these two "certain women" in the scriptures. I love seeing their strengths and their weakness portrayed in a way that I can understand. I love each of their unique personalities and testimonies of their Savior and His plan. These stories give me vision to be who I am and to listen the way I know how. I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows me and is patient with me, even when I take my complaints to Him. I now He will listen, now I pray I will do the same!
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"Certain women are disciples centered in the Savior Jesus Christ and have hope through the promise of His atoning sacrifice."
Linda K. Burton, CR April 2017