This is for the Doers
Updated: Sep 16
I’ve always found the story of Mary and Martha a bit annoying. On the one hand you have little Mary, who was undoubtedly the younger sister, ignoring the needs of Martha so she could sit with Jesus. I get it. Even Jesus says, “Mary has chosen what is better and it won’t be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
But what about Martha? Don’t you kind of feel bad for her?? I mean, likely her love language was Acts of Service, so maybe she was just trying to show Jesus some love by cleaning and cooking for him!
Either way, I see myself in both women. Many of us do. We are constantly torn between “doing” and “being” in our oxymoronic culture.
Distraction and connection — It’s a lot to contend with!
Often these polarizations keep us running in circles…they keep us more like Martha than Mary.
The need to slow down isn’t a new one. It's the reason we take vacations or have cabins, but those are just breaks in our every day. How do we live a life of balance? Of doing and being?
I was challenged by this recently while regaling my most recent emotional injuries to my therapist. After finishing I asked him, “So what can I do? How can fix this?”
He looked at me and smiled. “You’re not going to like my response, Jonna...There’s nothing for you to do. You need to just BE.”
His words hung there like a sweaty water balloon, heavy and laden and ready to burst.
“I don’t know how to do that,” I finally responded after a solid minute of contemplation (which feels like an hour in a therapy room!)
I couldn’t believe how true that statement was for me: I don’t know how to BE in my emotional anguish.
Can you relate to that at all? I’m sure many of you can because “being” is counterintuitive to how our society operates.
I‘m not on the other side of this “being” thing, so I don’t have any "aha moments" or truth-be-tolds for you, but I can tell you this:
Pushing a lever that repeatedly gives you nothing doesn't make the pain / fear / grief go away.
BF Skinner (a behavioral psychologist in the 1930s) discovered this – a theory now known as the “Skinner Box“. A local psychologist tried to recreate this recently with a rat and he found that when the rat pushed a lever and got a pellet one time, it motivated him to push the lever SIX THOUSAND TIMES MORE in hopes of getting the same result. Only he never did…so he died of a heart attack.
If this doesn’t describe the state of grief in our culture, I don’t know what does.
Pushing a lever 6,000 times might feel better in the moment because it we're actually doing something, but I assure you, our efforts are evasive at best, damaging at worst.
Giving ourselves time and space for raw, gut-wrenching “being” – to sit at Jesus’ feet, if you will – allows our brains to recoup and rewire so that when we DO get up and move again, we will have more peace. And strength.
How do we do this, though? Are we supposed to literally sit there in our "being"?
Well, my therapist knew I would never be down for that, so he gave me a unique activity to try: He suggested I write out a portion of my grief...with my left hand.
I did some further research and discovered that this strategy helps gain access to the opposite side of our brains. So for me (a righty) this means I will be operating with the right hemisphere of my brain, the side that controls emotions and image processing (the side that I need the most right now).
Using our non-dominant hand also forces us to expose our unedited thoughts, which causes us to feel more vulnerable and process emotions we wouldn’t otherwise.
So that’s what I’ll be doing soon (whenever I get up the gumption to try it!) I am praying this will be the first of many moments where I don't try to fix and strive, do and push. There will be another time for "doing"; right now it's more important that I let Jesus minister to my weary soul.
Martha didn’t really get it wrong; she just needed a perspective shift. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus was inviting her into something new — a different way of doing AND being. Read this passage and ask yourself, What do I need more of today? Am I too comfortable? Do I need more action, less apathy? Or am I distracted or preoccupied with the wrong things? (Or maybe you're perfect, in which case, I'd love to meet you. 😉)