“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.
Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
~Luke 10: 38-42, ESV
I have often found it incredibly ironic that I was named Mary and not Martha. Despite my ability to curl up and read for hours, I still identified much more with Martha, the sister who always had a meal prepared, and not Mary of Bethany, who seemed to be sitting around just taking up space. Artsy girls who appeared to be “unproductive” irritated me. It’s not that I was overtly controlling or anxious, but I knew how to get things done, and done fast—efficiency was my middle name. I even crammed four years of undergraduate school into three years, including travel and one semester in Cambridge. Mary of Bethany seemed a bit lazy, like a goody two-shoes kind of girl, someone too pure and sweet to be a fun buddy or engage my whacky sense of humor. Mary’s presence disturbed me; I didn’t want to be her. Why couldn’t I have been called by my middle name, Elizabeth? Or Anne, Emily, or any number of romantic literary names?
I’ve wrestled with Our Savior who told Martha that one thing was necessary and that her sister Mary had chosen the good portion. If I’m honest with myself, I’ll inquire why Mary’s choice was necessary? How was her portion better than Martha’s contributions, which seemed absolutely essential to a gathering?
But thanks be to our sweet, merciful Father who called us by name before we were even born. In His infinite wisdom and patience, He brings us on a journey to become who we were called to be. Slowly, I have come into a greater understanding of Jesus’ words to Martha.
Exodus 14:14 tell us, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)
Mary knew how to be still. She knew how to sit at her Savior’s feet and BE. She welcomed it. Slowly, I have been guided on a journey from my impetuous youth to “becoming” and “being”.
Being still, sitting at His feet, and allowing God to work for my good and His glory has been the most challenging undertaking of my life. I can train for hours at the gym. I can discipline myself with fasting. I can work for hours to complete a project, write for pages, design jewelry for days, but be still? Allowing someone else to fight for me and to serve me has been an Herculean effort. It has called me to surrender—to humble myself and allow God to be God. To know that I am not Atlas; I do not hold the universe on my shoulders.
But true rest has to go beyond human resignation and defeat, and that has been my ongoing struggle. I didn’t initially welcome being still. I literally sat at the Lord’s feet in seminary soaking up His teachings, but I still didn’t rest. My husband, Mark, and I planted a church and immersed ourselves in Christian ministry, but in the constant struggle to make ends meet, we didn’t rest. My health took a hit, and I researched diets and alternative medicine and still didn’t truly rest. In all of this, I continued to argue with God and pleaded for healing, interceded for open doors in ministry, and sought Him for a sense of vision and purpose.
The psalmist shares, “My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” (Psalm 131:1-2, ESV.)
Last year was a season where I was forced to be still, but on the inside, I still rejected rest. Why, why, why did it have to be like this??? But in my forced inaction, I began to be romanced by my Savior. The “why” might be too great for me to understand, but He loves me and is working all things for my good and His glory. Embracing rest had to be a choice—to calm myself, to be quiet, to be still. In choosing to rest in my Savior’s provision, I expressed confidence with Paul that “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, ESV)
I surrendered my fight, my to-do list, my theological outline of what God should be doing, and allowed myself to set aside things too wonderful for me to understand. I welcomed Him.
In Psalm 130:5, the psalmist declares, “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope.” (ESV) As I waited, I was led to praise. Our strongest prayers are those of praise. I am reminded of Paul and Silas worshipping in their Philippian jail cell. Praising God in the waiting season is our most powerful weapon in the spirit. We express faith and confidence in the goodness of our Father and enter into a higher level of worship that requires releasing anxiety and the “troubles” of Martha. We see Martha’s meal preparation as necessary, but God’s meal delivery service is beyond our comprehension. We are not God. We don’t know all things. His ways are too wonderful for us to understand.
Gradually, I have chosen to humble my natural human inclinations to “do,” and welcomed rest, choosing to be still and allowing God to work all things out for my good and His glory.
Today, you’ll find me in the studio, worshipping as I create. I’ve been designing jewelry for around ten years, working with the natural beauty of gemstones and raw metals while I craft earrings, necklaces, and bracelets for the glory of God. As I create, I pray over each piece—that the woman who dons Magpie Madness jewelry will know she is loved by her Creator, that no jewel will make her more beautiful in His sight or equal the beauty of His face. All beauty comes from the Father. Some of my pieces are specifically Christ-centered, such as my “Well with my Soul” necklace, while others share His love through the essence of pearls and glimmer of gold. Because of this change in my heart, this is no longer work; it is rest.
Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. She worshipped in utter simplicity. She gave him her attention and time. She had no agenda. Finally, I am choosing to welcome my name. I want to become and be Mary and no longer Martha at heart.
In 2020, I am choosing to welcome rest, to BE Mary, to choose the good portion, and to sit at His feet and worship. What will you choose?
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used with her kind permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
Mary has cherished life-long literary dreams coupled with a passion for ministry, all of which lead her to study English literature and later theology and counseling in seminary. She has been designing artisan jewelry for eight years while homeschooling son Ian and daughter Julianna. She and her husband Mark Miller have been in ministry for the past thirteen years in San Diego and temporarily moved to Washington with their cat Lord Peter Wimsey while Mark finalized his dissertation. Dr. Miller is now pursuing ministerial opportunities nation-wide. Mary enjoys off-the-wall humor, gardening, cooking, and curling up with anything penned by Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, or Jane Austen.