If I could pick one piece of the Gospel to avoid writing about, it would probably be this one. I have heard this story taught about, preached about, written about, referenced and debated until I am sick to death of it. There is a popular book title, ”Having a Mary Heart in a Martha world” and although I think the title is clever and the subject is important, I still won’t go near it. There is some part of my soul… some abused, dismissed, hurt, and misunderstood layer of me that feels as if this Gospel story is used to keep women two-dimensional and inside their boxes. There is a psychological dysfunction that is also a misogynistic view of women called the “Madonna/Whore complex.” This view only allows men to consider females in their lives as either saintly and holy (and on a huge pedestal) or really dirty and untouchable. Some believe that this is a true, but rare, psychological illness, and others believe it is a pervasive viewpoint in our male-controlled and dominant culture. Either way, it is very difficult for men who hold this view to simply see women as “other humans” capable of everything they can do – including high achievements, mundane life, and failure. Some have accused the church of being the originators of this idea or at least perpetuating it with images, stories and references to the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene portrayed in juxtaposition. I strain against these classifications, knowing that I myself can be bits of both Madonna and Whore, and a lot in between as well. So when I hear this Gospel story begin, I instantly roll my eyes and wait for it to be over. For many years, to my ears, this story rang of the same binary viewpoint: Mary the saint, and Martha the dirty, base and banal “housewife.” I love Jesus and I long to sit at His feet, but I know that I also need to get a hot dinner on the table for my children. I loathe the division between these two women. To me, these are not separate categories. I am ONE person acting out these exaggerated roles of serene reflection, blissed-out and staring into Jesus’s face caught up in rapture —- and the SAME ME is exhausted, with my sleeves rolled up, wearing a grease covered apron, sweating over a hot stove trying to feed an army of Jesus-followers who have suddenly descended on my house. So it is with great humility and openness that I close my eyes and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in today’s response. I purposefully lay down my old grievances, my scarred over wounds, and my triggered reactions. I see past the people (men and women alike) who have tried to keep me in a box, or tried to dispossess me of my gifts, and I simply see Jesus. I imagine Jesus enters my house, and begins to speak. Everything that He tells me is amazing and it’s like drinking water I have always been thirsty for. As time passes and I get distracted and think about real life (the part where I need to get up and get dinner, my job, errands, or chores going), He tells me not to fret or worry but to simply use my time with Him to receive His love. He doesn’t tell me not to do real life; He just tells me that there is a better way to do it. And that way is doing real life – the working, the child raising, the cooking and the cleaning – with Him. When I live my whole life with Him — the holy moments, the ordinary moments and the slip-up shameful moments — I am living a life that no one can take away from me. I don’t need to kick against the two versions of women I see portrayed; I can see this Gospel as a message to me. I can and need to do what Martha did, but I can and will do it in a blissed-out, ecstasy drenched, love relationship with Jesus at the same time.
July 19, 2010 No Comments