Review by Sharon Espeseth
Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life
by Joanna Weaver
In the spring of 2003, I was headed to my sister Joan's place for a retreat. The busyness of life and the nemesis of clinical depression was catching up with me for a second time, even though I hadn't fully realized it. It seemed everybody else and everything in my life was tilted like a cap askew on my head. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I wanted things to get back in order.
On the way to Joan's I stopped at a Christian bookstore to use a gift certificate getting dogeared in my purse. The book I wanted wasn't available, but a red sale sign for this Mary and Martha book almost poked me in the eye. The sign and title piqued my attention. Reading a few clips, I chuckled to myself.
How's this for openers? "Have you ever tried to do it all? I have, I do, and I probably always will. It's not only in my nature; it's also in my job description--and yours too. Being a woman requires more stamina, more creativity, and more wisdom than I ever dreamed as a young girl." The author sounded like my best friend having a chat with me.
Everyone is aware of the Mary/Martha dichotomy and sometimes we even take sides. Weaver points out that, although we may giggle about being a Mary or Martha, most of us would like to worship like Mary, to read our Bibles and pray, but it seems like just another item on our list. Instead we listen to the Martha who keeps bossing us around, telling us we need to do the laundry, clean the toilets, cook supper, help the kids with homework, bring sandwiches to the funeral. As they say, "A woman's work is never done."
Throughout the book, Joanna (We're on first name basis now!) shares her foibles, which seem amazingly like my own. Although I have been a perfectionist for most of my life, I am far from perfect. I want to learn from someone who has struggles similar to mine.
Joanna explains how Satan gets at us through distraction (i.e. busyness), discouragement, and doubt. In the tenth chapter of Luke, the doctor records that Martha was distracted "by all the preparations that had to be made." Then as now, the Martha in us thinks so many things "have to" be done, and done well. Joanna talks about weariness overpowering us. Then discouragement "breaks down our perspective and defenses." We say and do the wrong things. We feel "useless, hopeless, and abandoned." This was certainly where I was at that day in June ten years ago.
You will get a kick out of Ms. Weaver's description of Martha making the perfect meal. This wasn't any hash thrown together. Then Martha asked Jesus, "Don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?" We can't help feel that Jesus may have been hard on Martha and that Mary should have been helping.
The writer points out that neither of these women was perfect, but Jesus loved them both as they were. Still he loved them too much to leave them that way. Joanna talks about worry, fear, control issues, perfectionism, taking on too many jobs, all of the things we so innocently do. Through her personal stories, humour, scripture passages, and page-turning writing, we discover that the kingdom of God is a paradox. "While the world applauds achievement, God desires companionship," she says. "The world clamors, 'Do more! Be all that you can be!'" But our Father whispers, "Be still and know that I am God."
By following two other short clips about Mary and Martha later in the gospels, Weaver shows that these two completely different woman underwent a holy makeover. As she says, "It is impossible to be in the presence of Jesus and not be changed." I believe that God spoke to me through this book and gave me grace to change. Although I still fall back on my old ways, I believe it is hard to read this book without making changes in your life.
Sharon E. Espeseth lives in Barrhead with her husband Hank. She is a mother of three adult children and two sons-in-law and Nana to six grandchildren. Sharon currently serves as the Liaison for InScribe Satellite Groups.