The human heart was—and remains—a mystery to me. But I’m learning. I have to. —Anthony Bourdain

In defense of Marthas

Growing up Catholic, the stories of my childhood are often peppered with Bible passages. One of the ones I never really understood was the story of Martha and Mary.

Long story short, Jesus Christ comes over Mary and Martha’s house, and the two sisters welcome him quite differently. Martha goes about preparing all the food while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus, listening to him and his teachings. Martha, getting frustrated at doing all work, goes to Jesus and tells him to ask Mary to help with the food. At which point Jesus goes and tells her off that Mary chose the better thing which is to be with him.

The normal interpretation to this was as Jesus telling her that the earthly preparation is secondary (chores) but the spiritual one (being with him) takes priority. This has always confused me, as I thought, if she didn’t do the prep, who would? It’s not like they had a maid who could take over so they can both sit at his feet while they all go hungry.

I guess it’s just the Martha in me who feels a bit offended that the person doing the grunt work is seen as less than the person out there, enjoying the company.

What if that’s how you show your love, all Martha-like by making sure the people around you are well fed, enjoy themselves? What if you’re not the most comfortable showing affection or know the right words to say? But you make the effort to be there and listen, does that make you less of a loving person?

I see it more often now in today’s world, of social media and “proof” of affection that those who are outwardly affectionate and do grand gestures are the ones being praised for their “ability to love”. It doesn’t take into account those who love quietly and support without fanfare.

I believe in the Marthas and hope they get more credit. Parents who stay at home and do all the chores never get thanked for the small things that pile up after a while. It’s a thankless job being a stay at home parent.

Honestly, I find myself being more of a Martha than a Mary most days. I’m not the most vocal or grand gesture-like, but I do my best to be there and do the work. I cook for people to make them happy, and most times, if you mention something you like that I can get for you, I will make the effort to get it.

So hug your Martha today, you never know if they need it.

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