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Monday, July 19, 2010

Martha, Mary & the Cross

My most current graduate course is taking my brain to places where angels fear to tread: the synaptic gap, as it were. So the simple fact that I'm able to put any creative thoughts together is nothing short of a miracle. My class is covering psychopharmacology, or in less vulgar vernacular, uppers, downers and all-arounders. It is fascinating stuff. I'm learning about how the brain is wired together, how it seeks to balance itself and how it gets "stuck" sometimes in places where it should not be, namely addictions. I'm learning about what lurks in the medicine cabinet of pill poppers and I'm wondering why they use names such as Oxycontin, Talwin, Propoxyphene and Darvocet rather than better descriptors such as "powderthatwillmakeyoupuke", "willaddictuforever", "demonpill", "killingmepainfully" "donteventhinkaboutit". This is not to say that people should give up their pharmaceuticals. There are plenty of sound medical reasons why meds are necessary to good mental health. But there should be balance, caution and wisdom in these choices...

So speaking of balance, did you happen to catch the Gospel from yesterday? Mary chose the better part of sitting at the Master's feet whilst Martha ran around in an amphetamine-like delirium cooking, baking, sweeping, fixing, serving, ing, ing ing. She was probably ready to ING Mary in the kisser for doing all of that sitting. We all know a Martha or two. They are busy folks… running around doing important stuff. They are your PTA presidents. They organize the classroom Christmas party (or should I say--Winter Wicca Solstice Celebration); they have mastered the fine art of busy-ness and when they sit down, they are probably quilting or knitting or constructing something out of popsickle sticks for their four year old. Trust me, it will be of Smithsonian quality when they are done. They can make forts out of cardboard boxes that rival dwellings in Better Homes and Gardens and design jewelry out of polyurethane. They French braid with one hand and thumb wrestle with the other. They actually MAKE their children's halloween costumes and could proudly and accurately do veterinary surgery on Rover atop picnic table gurney if push came to shove. Their hand-crafted Christmas cards are done in October and mailed by November 1. Why do you think Martha Stewart is named Martha, anyway??

And then there's Mary. Sweet, slow, unshakable, contemplative Mary. Just sittin around taking it all in. I am certain that the Mary's of the world are responsible for much of the prescription drug abuse by the Martha's of the world, but that will save for another day. I'm soooo glad that the Lord fixed this situation by saying: "Mary has chosen the better part". I'm just sure that Martha shrugged her shoulders, giggled and staggered off to fill the dishwasher. Ah, but there's the rub. Jesus was never convenient. Nor was He politically correct in my estimation. He poetically magnified this situation: Martha, you’re busy and anxious about many things.

You see, I think we are each individually made up of both qualities of these powerful women. We have moments of Marthathon and moments of Marydom. The key to it all is keeping a balance of the best of both. The single best representation of how this works in my view is a view of the cross. The horizontal beam represents our Martha. It is the position that we take in the world in relation to our neighbor. It is our service to our fellow man. It is our outstretched hand to the leper at the side of the road; the careful touch of a bandaid on an injured knee. A readiness to listen to a hurting friend who has need of an available friend. Martha represents the necessary action which supports our words and thoughts. Martha points up the reality that “faith without works is dead”. Martha’s activity was not the problem here per se, it was her attitude: she became “burdened by the service”. She lost sight of what Mary was seeing.

Jesus admonishes Martha and explains to her that there is more to life than mindless activity, even though the activity in and of itself may be good. He reminds her that He IS the Life and Mary has chosen the better part by her single-minded focus on that one timeless Principle.

Mary, keeping the LORD as her priority was planted at His feet and fixed on His direction. Mary reminds us of the vertical beam of the cross; the one that reaches heavenward. It is truly, the posture we must aspire as we remain teachable, trainable followers. Martha may be a clean, rushing river that over time, carves out a canyon whereas Mary is a deep, plentiful, still aquifer that is tapped in time of drought and supplies life-giving sustenance. Mary’s gaze is prayer. Martha’s unburdened activity is also prayer. When we balance the two, we see their intersection: the cross.

I’m probably a Mary trapped inside of a Martha if that makes any sense. I still feel like I need to be “doing something” with my prayer. Somehow I will figure out a way to reconcile the two. The synergy of Martha/Mary may in fact be the Martha leading me gently to Mary and together we dissolve into His gaze.

“And it will not be taken from her”. (Luke 10:41)

1 comment:

  1. The picture sure catches the attention.. Thanks for sharing the thoughts