Mary, not Martha

I’ve learned that I’m a pretty task-oriented person. If you would have asked me before I came here, though, I would have said that I appreciate the journey. However, even thinking in terms of a journey implies that there is a direction and a destination. That’s different than simply being present.

In Chile, people are really good at being present. They abandon what they’re doing to hang out and talk, and often end up staying late. Chileans are Marys, not Marthas.

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, 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 10:40-42

Martha is the sister that worries about serving her guests, getting things done and making them perfect. Mary, on the other hand, positions herself at the feet of Jesus. That’s where I want to be. But often times, I let my culture get in the way. American culture is very focused on appearances and people-pleasing. But here in Chile, people are willing to leave things imperfect. They accept the messiness of life. And they sit with people in the midst of it.

I’ve learned a lot this semester about the idea of Biblical suffering. My Chilean church has taught me what it means to thank God for hard things and trust Him that there is a purpose in all of it.

When Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, died, Mary stayed back and sat in the suffering. She wept and mourned. Her emotion affected Jesus; the famous verse “Jesus wept” is His response to seeing Mary hurting. God hurts when we hurt. How wild is that, that He cares for our pain?

Our response to other peoples’ pain should be to sit with them in it. To love them well, and pray with them. My church community here is really good at this. We are always praying for the brothers and sisters who are going through hard things. We go and visit them in the hospital and comfort families at funerals.

I think the pace of life here allows for more genuine love and community. Rather than rushing around from event to event, Chileans are present in the midst of everything. In the good and the bad, they stay and talk. They sit and rest at the feet of Jesus.

They are Marys, not Marthas.

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