Playing the Martha

This morning I think I just might have blissed out… And no, not by means of an ayurvedic massage inspired by ancient practices in the Himalayan mountains or anything like that. But in the domestic sense.

Call me crazy, but I had my hands in hot, soapy washing-up water, and could hear the washing machine gently tumbling our clothes a few metres away… And I found this sudden, immense satisfaction in everything becoming clean. Last night’s feasting became today’s dirty dishes, but now they were glistening, spotless and white again. I actually looked forward to the machine finishing its cycle so I could stand in the sunshine and peg them up carefully. In these moments of simple reflection and uncomplicated living, I was completely, unalterably happy.

Before you roll your eyes at me, let’s put this into context of the week I’d had before.

Nothing could bliss me out back then. OK, let’s be honest – I was a nightmare to live with. Everything was an issue. I didn’t ‘own’ any of my emotions or reactions – I blamed people for them. Discontent by my lack of sleep, the cough that wouldn’t let up, the dishes (yes, the wonderful dishes!), the kids, and the weather, I was always making a drama out of something. And this is what really bugs me because I hate it when others do it… I started to engage in the mother of all female foibles… Playing the Martyr.

Wikipedia says a “person who has a ‘martyr complex’ desires the feeling of being a martyr for its own sake, seeking out suffering or persecution because it feeds a psychological need.”

‘Oh… don’t worry about me [hubby] – I didn’t really want to go out to the shops for some ‘me time’… I’ll just stay here and do the dishes like I always do.’

And I realize how grating that sounds as I write it!

Or – ‘What do you mean?! I can’t just relax! Have you any idea how much I have on my plate tomorrow? Some of us can’t afford to just sit around…’

Yikes! Ouch.

Thankfully I’ve turned a corner, after a much-needed look at why I was coming out with that stuff. Not that I won’t necessarily revert to it again in some form in about a month’s time… but I really don’t like being like that.

Pondering my passive-aggressive drama queen-style behaviour reminded me of another ‘weight-of-the-world-on-her-shoulders’ type gal in the Bible.

Luke 10:38-42 tells the story of two women Jesus visited, Mary and Martha:

‘As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care  that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”’

Martha seems to think Mary is too engrossed in Jesus’ stories to notice the domestic tasks on their plate. Martha appeals to Jesus to help because she knows Mary looks up to him. In this instance, she comes across as a bit of a ‘victim’ of her workload.

Like many women of her time, Martha probably did have a lot going on. Domestic tasks could be all-consuming, and resting when there was work to be done seemed like an indulgence to her.

We don’t know her exact circumstances, but we know that even the presence of Jesus didn’t keep Martha from her work. Mary on the other hand… well, she’s kind of rapt in him.

Imagine you’re Martha, and this teacher-man comes in and says ‘You’re stressed… I can see that. You’ve got a million things to do, and you can’t get your mind off them. For you, right now, your ‘to-do list’ is your reality. Nothing else matters. But take a look at your sister rather than demanding I get her to help out. She might just be onto something. She might just be choosing the better way.”

What did Mary do? What was this ‘better way’? She sat at his feet. Listening, eyes fixed on this Teacher/Saviour/ God-Man as if nothing else mattered. Guess who he praises?

I want Jesus to be pleased with me like he is with Mary in this story. I want to choose ‘what is better’ and know how to really sit at his feet when I’ve got a million things to do. When it feels like the weight of the world is resting on me… (as ridiculous as it sounds, it’s sometimes how I feel). Doesn’t it make sense to take our cues from the one who really did take the world on his shoulders? Who died for us. Who rose for us. Who ascended to heaven. Who’s the biggest and greatest force in my life. My teacher, my best friend, my everything.

Sitting at his feet, listening to his words – paying careful attention to what he’s really saying before I get into the work he has for me… Well that sure sounds better than anything I can think of.

Utter bliss in fact.


  1. Thanks for the honest sharing Ali! I can relate to the complex very well… =P It’s not easy to just do what Mary did huh? May God help us to put Him first before all the other things that get in the way…

    1. Hehe, it’s kind of a girl thing isn’t it.. It isn’t easy, but as you say, may His way become our way, first and foremost 🙂 Have a great night x

  2. Love it! And I can relate! Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting. 🙂 I’m a newbie to blogging and I do a little dance with every new visit and comment. Haha!

    1. Haha, it’s encouraging isn’t it (I’m fairly new too). Your blog looks and sounds awesome – keep it up, I look forward to reading more!

      1. Thank you! I look forward to reading more of yours as well. I love your testimony (simple faith of a child after God helps find her doll) . That’s awesome!

  3. I enjoyed your transparency in this post! Thank you for sharing! May God continue His amazing work in and through you!

  4. Oh Ali, that post really touched me. From having a clean humming household to playing the role of Martha to perfection. Been there. Done that. 😀 Learning too what is more important and precious – when we learn to sit still and give Him our hearts, our attention even when it seems more natural to run about achieving things. Thank you for keeping it real yet always beautiful. Hugs, Sharon

    1. Well said Sharon… thank you for your encouragement and comments. So true – may we remember to choose what will really allow peace to flow into our lives, rather than striving for our own perfection all the time.

  5. ‘I want Jesus to be pleased with me like he is with Mary in this story.’

    I want that for my life, too. It can be so hard at times and so many things tell me/all of us to go the other way. But I want what you said in that sentence, too. Enjoyed this post. Have a good day.

    1. And because of the cross, thankfully he already is 🙂 May we all look to him for all we need. God bless and thanks for the encouragement Brian.

  6. Don’t be too hard on yourself…I’ve done it too. At least you caught on and got back on track. I like that story your referenced – I want to be more like Mary, too. (But I suspect I have enough Martha to be annoying.)

    1. Yeah, I have a tendency to beat myself up! But it’s so liberating to know all Jesus asks is for me to sit at his feet and wait on him for guidance and wisdom in everything 🙂

  7. Oh Ali . ..loved all of this. I can be Martha and then Mary and then again Martha . . all in the same day! haha! Blissed out . .yes! I know that feeling . . and want to be there more, with Him. God bless you and your heart for Him!

    1. Thanks so much Debbie.. hehe totally, can’t we all 🙂 May your heart for Him daily expand to allow His great expanse of love to flow into your life 🙂 God bless!

  8. Reblogged this on amberdover and commented:

    I love this inspirational message. Thanks God Girl. I’m happy to reblog :). I hope this will show up in email. If not you can read it on my actual webpage. I, too, have played the Martha. But really if the dishes pile up it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes it’s hard to see the big picture for the pile of laundry. This is a great reminder to see the big picture. God bless & remember the High King Lives! ~Amber Dover

    1. I posted on your page a reply – but thanks again for the re-blog! God bless you in all you do, especially the sitting at Jesus’ feet part 🙂 xx

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