Monday with Martha: Worried, Distracted, and Ticked Off

I know I talk a lot about Martha, the biblical woman who was so busy prepping for Jesus’s visit that she lost sight of the One Thing that would ease her worry and distraction (see Luke 10:38-42). Martha gets a bad rap from this story—and yet, many (most?) of us, it seems, identify with her pretty deeply. Maybe we’re tough on her because we feel guilty ourselves. We are too busy, too fussy, too whatever—and we think we oughta be sitting at Jesus’s feet all the time.

Today, though, I’m thinking about another gospel story about Martha, from John 11, when Martha and Mary’s brother Lazarus had died, and Jesus knew it was going to happen and purposely dragged his holy feet and showed up too late.

In this circumstance, again expecting a visit from Jesus, Martha wasn’t puttering over pots and pans or fussing with table settings to prepare for his arrival. Instead she was out on the road, meeting him before he even got there, and (in my imagination) she was, as the kids say, “all up in his grill.”

She was upset. Grieving. Worried. And I suspect just plain ticked off. Her faith in him was so strong that she knew he could have changed the course of Lazarus’s illness, if he had shown up on time. Behind her worry and distraction and sorrow and anger was deep confession: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One coming into the world.” (John 11:27)

Yes, Lord, I believe.

This is the Martha I’m living with this morning. I’m feeling upset, worried, and just plain ticked off.

I’m looking at situations in the news—and in my neighborhood—and wondering if Jesus is going to show up in time to change the course of the soul sickness around us. I want to go stomping down the road to meet him and throw my hands in the air and say “Lord, What The… Heck!?!?”

I have a long, Martha-ish To Do List this week and this month, including two big writing projects for which I need to be focused and calm. Worry and distraction are not helpful. And my instinctive response to grief and anger is to get busier, to fuss with filler activities that give me the feeling of control and efficiency. I admit I’ve been rage-knitting these past few days.

But I made myself put the yarn down, and I did my daily mind-dump journaling practice (a habit I established over a year ago), and I did morning prayer (a habit I’m still trying to establish). And now I’m no less angry, but I am reminded that at the core of my anger is deep belief in the One who shows us, over and over, that this is not the end.

I believe we need new life in our nation.

I also believe we need new life in our religious communities—especially in our Christian churches.

If we have to go through the deaths of the country as we know it and the church as we know it to get there… well, after all, that’s the story of our faith.

And when we pack up our anger and our sadness and our fear and we go out to meet Jesus on the road, even stomping our feet and waving our arms and getting in his face with tears in our eyes—I believe he’s glad to see us there.

Because it means we’re not taking any of it lightly. It means it matters. It means we trust him—expect him—to come, and to bring new life.

Help my unbelief.

My other favorite biblical disciple is another who gets a bad rap: Thomas. Like Martha, his grief and fear and anger are twined together with deep belief (in spite of the unfortunate nickname he’s been saddled with for centuries). Thomas’s powerfully honest confession in John 20:24-29 feels like a Part 2 of Martha’s; this morning the two are taking turns in my head.

Yes, Lord, I believe.

Help my unbelief.

Yes, Lord, I trust you to come.

Help me find the focus and calm to wait, and the emotion and energy to go out to meet you even with tears in my eyes.

Yes, Lord, I expect you to shock us with new life.

Help me to prepare for you in my work, and to recognize you on the way.

Stay well, friends. 🙏🏻

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