Better a Single Mary than a Married Martha

There are a lot of things that I tell myself to help keep my perspective about my life of singleness; call them mantras, silver linings, or bright sides. Whatever name you give them, as Christians, we have to keep ourselves grounded in the truth. For me, it means not only reading Scripture, but working to memorize it. It also means talking to myself. I am a communicator, and I am also a person who learns and problem solves by talking things through. Sadly, I am probably better at listening to myself than listening to others. So, when it comes to keeping my thinking right, I talk myself through it.

At the heart of my “mantras” about singleness, is the truth that I have made the better choice. Or, to be more accurate, God has chosen better for me than I would have for myself. It is impossible to disentangle God’s sovereign will for my life from my own free-will choices. All I can know, this side of heaven, is that God has led me here. He mercifully rescued me from trying to marry the wrong person when I was twenty-three, and I cannot forget that His grace alone has brought me to my current place in life. I also know that my decisions, good and bad, have led me here. For the last decade, my endeavor has been to seek God, rather than seek a husband. I am not always the best at this; I’m human. In my imperfect way, I seek to surrender my future to the Lord. I seek God’s will for my life rather than chasing my own desires. So, whenever God shines light on a positive truth of my situation, I hold on to it and remind myself of it.

I don’t know why Mary and Martha came into my mind last week, but the contrast between these two is exactly the difference I want to have in my life. I almost hesitate to bring up the paradigm of these sisters, because it seems to have become clichéd. But I couldn’t get the sentence out of my mind, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42b, NIV) What would it mean for my Savior to say that I have chosen what is better? Verse 39 of the chapter indicates that Mary’s choice was to sit and listen to Jesus.

We live in a world that is obsessed with busyness and possessions in a way that even Martha could never have imagined. She was concerned with being a good hostess, and considering her guest, I can’t blame her. What is our excuse? Americans seem almost proud of their busy schedules. And because of the how much we have to do, we need the latest smart phone and a certain car. Much of what we feel so obligated to do, we have, in a sense, created for ourselves. We have prioritized activities in such a way that we keep ourselves running. I get a sense that some people think being busy makes them important. I don’t exclude myself from this problem, yet my life is relatively slow. Being single, I don’t have a lot of time commitments. I also don’t have anyone to answer to for my time. Anyone, that is, other than God.

But the Lord answered her, “Matha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Several years back, I did a course at work on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. There was an emphasis on planning and scheduling life, and I felt strange because I didn’t have anything in my life that needed to be organized. My life isn’t stressful or busy. I am a time-clock-puncher, so I don’t take work home with me. In recent years the only pull I have felt for my time, is God. It is very clear to me that God is calling me to set aside the novel, or walk away from the TV because He has work for me to do. He has called me to spend time at His feet each morning. A habit I am still working on. He has also called me to use some of my free time to study His word, write, and share with others what He is teaching me as I walk with Him.

I think to myself, and then say it aloud, “It’s better to be a single Mary than a married Martha.” It’s a bit of a tongue-twister, but it fits nicely on my list of “Single-Girl Mantras.” It is important for me to remember that if I am going to add this to the list of truths I tell myself, I cannot forget what it means to be like Mary. No matter how busy we are or aren’t, it is easy to get caught up in the cares and concerns of the world. The lesson of Martha isn’t that the things we concern ourselves with are bad, but that they aren’t the best choice of where to spend our time an energy. It is difficult to be disciplined with one’s time even when you have only yourself and God to answer to. I must discipline myself now to choose what is better, so that whatever the future brings, I will still make Mary’s choice. My hope is that no matter my job or my marital status, I will choose each day that “good portion, which will not be taken away. . .” I don’t ever want to be too busy to sit at Jesus’ feet.

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