When Martha Learns to be Mary

Sometimes it’s hard to keep my mouth shut.

My brain is always working, spewing out thoughts and feelings. When my brain isn’t in conversational overdrive, activity is the name of the game. Doing and productivity push me to want to conquer my never-ending tasks.

Sometimes the better thing is to be still. The better thing is to listen rather than jibber on. The better thing is to step away from the pressure of my day and enter in to sacred secrecy with God.

Jesus said to a frantic and frazzled Martha–the one I know–the one trying to get it all done and get it all right:

… you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.–Luke 10:41-42.

How opposite from the demands of the day and the drive of this performance-crazy world. Jesus cuts through all the stuff that crowds us–the worry and stress, the doing and finishing, the external and temporary.

What secret had Mary discovered? What formula for delivering the soul and redeeming the day?

It is the secret of being present WITH Jesus.

When Mary learns to be Martha

Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him… Psalm 37:7

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.–Matthew 6:6

Sacred secrecy takes place in our inner room, that inmost being present and intimate with Christ. This is our holy of holies.

We need to cultivate sacred secrecy with God–not as in we should, but as in we really need it.

But what to do on those harried, chaotic Martha days?

The chaos of a day


Nothing is finished, the house is a wreck, and there is no quiet to be found. How do we get to this resting place when kids are crying and people are asking? How does Martha learn to be Mary?

We need inner-room living in a busy world.

What if my inner room is a condition of the heart, rather than a space on the schedule, a place in the house, or a formula for spiritual growth?

For so long, I thought time with God had to be a certain way with a specific time and formula. It had to be quiet, with everything else stopped and put away. Too often, that quiet didn’t come.

And I felt guilty.

I felt lacking and displeasing to God.

I felt like a spiritual failure, as if God was depending on me to do everything just so.

The true secret to intimacy with God.

What if we learn to be present WITH God in the midst of the quiet moments as well as the busy times? What if we learn the secret of living WITH God, rather than for God? WITH, that communion of spirit, enables us to pray, speak, work, and play with God–no lines and no divisions between sacred and secular, between doing and being.

As Martha learns to be Mary,  we can learn to live like a man long ago, who learned sacred secrecy in the doing of life:

...give me the grace to remain with You and keep company with You. But so that my work may be better; Lord, work with me; receive my work and posses all my affections. Practicing the Presence of God, p. 120.

WITH-that sacred secrecy of living with God–Mary and Martha can come together.

2 Responses to When Martha Learns to be Mary
  1. Heather
    August 22, 2014 | 8:01 pm

    I love this post as this is one of my favorite stories in Scripture. I wrote about it recently on my blog, as well. It is such a short, simple story, yet one that I have to be very intentional about living out. I like the idea of being present WITH God in the craziness that is this life. Thanks so much!

    • Ginger Harrington
      August 25, 2014 | 10:28 am

      I ‘ll look forward to reading your post on this. I am reminding myself…with God, with God… Thanks for sharing your heart today.