Mary or Martha?

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July 2013:  Three years ago, I went on a wonderful silent retreat sponsored by the local Jesuit house. One of the reflections asked us to clear our mind and feel God leading us to reflect on a bible passage. Once we had one, we had to put ourselves in the verse, without knowing why, I focused on a story I remember hearing about Jesus going to a friend’s house.  While at the house, he was talking, people were listening and one of the poor sisters was running around playing hostess while the other sat listening to Jesus and chatting.   She complained to the Lord and he basically told her to shut up, if she wanted to talk and listen she could, but if she wanted to serve people she could.    (ok, I took BIG artistic license retelling it.. but its what I got from it)

I know I have lived this scene in my own life… first as a child .. complaining about doing more than my fair share of chores and then as an adult at work and at home…. (why is it my husband isn’t bothered by the dirty dishes in the sink?)  but I’ve always plugged along.  It is who I am, it is who I was raised to be.  I’m a hostess, I fix, I feed, I fluff… I’m not as good at it as my baby sister or my wonderful Godmother, but I do like to take care of people.    I have other gifts.  I lead.  I inspire, I teach.  I am a friggin bright light of sunshine to others.  I take over events/groups/activities and run them.  I make sure people are having fun, I pull together teams of helpers (minions) to go with my plan and they do.   Its my gift.. but its exhausting.     My mother frets over it, my husband and children question my sanity and others either think I am a saint or a spotlight hogging narcissist.  It is a little bit of all of it.. I don’t stop to think about it,   I just do it.   My mother asked me once why I had to be in charge of something.. why couldn’t I just go to a meeting and sit…. I laughed.. I told her… If I’m going to go I might as well be in charge.  It is expected of me.

So, anyway.. on the retreat.. I figured something out… as much as I would like to just sit and listen ,  that would make me crazy and feel as if I am not using the gift God gave me.   Regardless, I vowed that weekend to stop trying to save the world and instead listen to the quiet times, the times when God is talking to me and I’m too busy offering him a beverage than to listen.     That weekend I vowed to do less and to relax, to quit volunteering quite so much and spend more quiet time with my husband and three kids.

… that worked for about three months… then we got word that our grandchildren were placed in foster care when their mother was arrested.   The social worker determined that they couldn’t be sent back to live with one of the biological Dads…so they needed to come live with us.   It wasn’t an easy process at first, we sat and waited.  (my excellent trying to be patient worked for all of three months)   Then we realized I needed to start helping the bogged down social service system.  I got my high energy service self into gear and with the wonderful foster-mother who loved and cared for my grandchildren for nine months, we begged, badgered and bullied local, state and federal employees until we finally got word we could get the children.

The moment we got the kids, I knew all my time spent volunteering in the community was going to come back to me in a big way.  I had wonderful friends helping me.    I put the kids into sports and scouts and band and I jumped in with them.  I met new and wonderful people.   I jumped headfirst back into the volunteering realm.    I wanted to be the quiet sister, the one who sat and listened to God, but I was needed again to lead, to coach, to organize.   I learned (and strive to remember) the joy in the stillness, the peace I can find in quiet contemplation and prayer.. but I also hear God’s voice in the laughter of children,  in the teenagers who reach out to me to chat.. and the parents I work with in Faith Formation.  I know my place is truly as a servant of God..


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