I am aptly named Martha. I am a doer just like the one in the bible. But why does Jesus chastise her? Why would he condemn serving? What does he really want from her, and us?
As much as I hate my given name, Martha, I embody its biblical reference of a task-oriented, get-it-done kind of person. I generally am the one in the background organizing, planning and DOING.
In church we have been taught for years (from Luke 1o) that being a Martha is a bad thing. Don’t be like her. You should be more like Mary. The one that sat at the feet of Jesus and listened when Martha was working. You can even read books learning how to be more like Mary.
But what’s wrong with being goal oriented, organized, and focused. I cannot completely divorce myself from my first-born, natural leader self to shirk duties, forego an obvious need and leave something undone. I wouldn’t be able to be present with the task at hand knowing I was not fulfilling my obligations and duties. It is just who I am. It is how God made me, if you want to get all churchy about it.
So what really was Martha’s sin? Didn’t Jesus and the guests need to eat? Why was Mary really rewarded and made the bastion of all womankind for being a slacker? That theology does not compute with me.
Jesus has discussed this concept before with the disciples about the woman who broke the perfume bottle on his feet. (John 12) The disciples chastised her for wasting the perfume, which she could have sold and donated the money to the poor. But Jesus said (Marti translation) you will always have the poor but me, not so much.
Yeah, I know the perfume foreshadowed his death and burial. But it says more about what God wants from us, something I’m not always good at – relationship.
I don’t think Jesus was chastising the disciples for wanting to take care of the poor. Just like I don’t think Jesus was rebuking Martha for being herself. Both of those tasks are important and good.
Many times Jesus tells us to take care of the poor, the widows and orphans. Martha, well she was the original hostess with the mostess. Think of her culture, her work was expected, but what Jesus drew issue with was that she never stopped. If you think about it Jesus was throwing culture out the window by celebrating women being in the room. He was giving them a place in the conversation and movement.
Jesus wanted Martha to be present. He wanted her to hear him. I know in my life I complain that Jesus isn’t speaking. He isn’t clear. But is it really that I’m not listening? Is there too much noise? Am I distracted? Am I too focused on tasks? Probably. I rarely slow down. My mind is constantly moving.
God has a way of getting our attention. Because he wants us to just BE with him. How in the world do you do that? I think in some regards that has been part of my journey and story for the past 2 and a half years. In my former life I was a doer. I was in two small groups, lead two support groups, and volunteered for several organizations. It’s all good stuff but at the end of the day I was exhausted, not recharged. I was needed but after a while I had nothing left to give.
The spiritual discipline of silence or noticing God is one I first heard of in grad school. As I’ve struggled these last six months, most specifically, with what’s next in my life I realize that my ears weren’t attuned to really hearing God. So that’s what I’m working on, listening.
It’s hard to do there is so much clutter in my brain. While my lifestyle has been drastically simplified my mind is a scary space. There is a lot going on in there. I tend to even opt for activities in this area. I’ll do a bible study. I’ll go to worship night. I”m at church on Sunday. Again, all of these things are good, but not that point.
It’s about silence, centeredness, and a space of being able to really commune with God. I have done mini-silent retreats and it took me half the time to just unwind. I even went to a “silent” movie in 2007, no it wasn’t a Charlie Chaplin flix. It was a rare glimpse into a silent order of monks hidden away in the mountains in Europe. It took me over two hours to settle into the movie.
So I’m working on it. I’m trying to be more focused. Of course my first thought is to study about it, figure out how to do it. I have about four (unread) books on it in my library. But I’m trying to keep it simple. Much to come on this, I’m sure.
The fourth love language is quality time.
Aaah now we’re talking my language. Quality time is all about being together. It’s focused attention. No distractions. It is true connection as you engage in quality conversation or activities.
When quality time is used as a means of expressing love it is a powerful, authentic connection. It isn’t about the activity, the focus is on what is happening between the people involved. This is all about emotional availibility and connection.
God made us for community. We need each other. We were not meant to do life alone. Yet it’s amazing how fragmented our relationships are and how lonely we feel. We hunger for this expression of love. Yet our lives are too busy, we don’t have the time to invest this way very often with many people.
Chapman identifies three main expressions of quality time: quality conversation, quality listening and quality activities.
Quality conversation is about “sympathetic dialogue where two individuals are sharing their experiences, thoughts, feelings, and desires in a friendly, uninterrupted context.”
A couple of weeks ago I spent the day with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We did many activities but never got the chance to sit down and really talk. I left feeling a little sad. I didn’t feel connected to her. While we had fun it wasn’t completely satisfying for me. I wanted to hear about her life, interact with her about mine and discuss what we were thinking and feeling about those things that mattered to us. We didn’t have a chance to sit and share life.
An important part of quality conversation is hearing. In order to be a quality conversationalist “I will focus on drawing you out, listening sympatheically to what you have to say. I will ask question, not in a badgering manner but with a genuine desire to understand your thoughts, feelings and desires.”
It isn’t just hearing but listening to truly understand the situation and the person. It means listening for the emotions that underlie what they are saying, body language, giving undivided attention, not interrupting and clarifying what you are hearing from them. You aren’t thinking about what you’ll say next, but you are in the moment with them, emoting, encouraging, and paying attention.
The final quality time dialect is quality activities. It still isn’t really about the activity but the fact that you are doing it with someone you are about. The focus is on building memories, having shared experiences and giving someone else one of the most important things we have so little of, time.
This is why I love my day trips. I get quality, uninterrupted time one-on-one with people I enjoy spending time with. As we engage with our surroundings we’re also engaging with one another. It is sheer bliss for me.
The scary thing about quality time is opening up to another person, showing your feelings and inner most thoughts. You’re trusting them with who you are and what you like to do. Given past experiences in relationships this can be reduced to really shallow and unemotional exchanges.
I’ve been in relationships where we engage in many activities together and yet there is no connection whatsoever. I think this happens alot with co-workers. So when often when you change jobs you never talk to them again. It can also be this way with roommates. Just because you live with someone it doesn’t mean you’re spending quality time together. These relationships are frustrating.
Quality time is deliberate and intentional to build the relationship.
So for me quality time is invigorating, refreshing and life giving. I feel understood, enriched and well … loved. The people I can engage in quality time with are my soul feeders. My batteries get recharged and I leave their presence wanting more time.