I am captivated by the idea of rest as resistance. It is counter-intuitive. When we think of resistance movements, we always think of doing something, but some of the most successful resistance movements in America involved sitting, as Rosa Parks did on a bus in Alabama, or as others did at segregated lunch counters across the American South.
Here again, I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. There are two things in Luke’s narrative that stick out to me. First, let’s talk about Martha’s invisible labor. Jesus, because he is both all man and all God, has a unique vantage point in this situation. He can sense that Martha isn’t just working herself into a tizzy with the cooking and the cleaning. He knows that her mind is elsewhere. It’s not just the physical acts of cooking and cleaning that are wearing on Martha, but Martha is also doing the mental labor of calculating the logistics.
Martha, in her mind, is making grocery lists and planning dinner menus. She’s trying to figure out where everyone will sleep. She’s wondering if she has enough clean linens. Martha is counting her coins to make sure that she will have enough to live on after the Master and his entourage have moved on to the next city. Every woman I know struggles with exhausting mental loads that the rest of us do not see. What we see is the well-maintained home, the delicious plates of food, and the smiling face. We hardly notice, that Martha has barely taken a seat the entire time we are in her home. We don’t realize that she didn’t even get a plate of the marvelous meal she cooked, and we certainly don’t see the exhaustion that is sure to follow.
Every woman I know struggles with this invisible labor, the things she sees and worries about so that no one else has to. Every woman I know is tired. Almost none of us know what to do about it. Jesus, says to Martha, and in turn, to me, “you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Which brings me to Sister Mary. While Martha is subservient and does what is expected of her, Mary is subversive, and does what would normally not have been allowed. She sits, not just listening on the outskirts, but in the same room with the men, not just that, but in view of all the men. She even had the nerve to take one of the preferred spaces. She is not paying attention to the hustle and bustle going on around her. She’s probably not even listening to the murmurs about herself. “Who does she think she is?” “Lazy, shiftless woman.” “How dare she?” She is the epitome of unbothered. All she cares about is what the master is saying. And in so doing, she is inciting a revolution. Oh, how I long to be like her.
Photo Credit: Lisa Fotios on pexels.com
This is part two of a series based on my re-imagining of the Mary and Martha narrative. Here’s my initial post.