When They Need a Martha, and You’re a Mary

“You need a Martha!” I declared emphatically “and I? I am a Mary!” I plopped blueberry muffins and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on my mom’s dining table.

I had come to help my parents pack for a major move — Only I was the wrong person for the job!

Disorganized, easily distracted, given to rambling and reminiscing, I was working out of my weak place. How could I help? How could I be the support that they needed? How would we ever get the work done?

There are those life moments when you don’t just feel, you know beyond doubt, that you are not the right person for the job. There are so many others, all so much more qualified that you can’t even list all of them, but you can sure list your flaws, faults, and lack of ability.

But it was me who was there. There was no Martha – just me.

I did what Mary would have done. I began with muffins and coffee, and then I was ready — ready to channel Martha with her no-nonsense organization and “get things done” attitude.

Remarkably it worked. In what could only have been grace I packed and labeled boxes, organized spaces, and threw away trash. I became Martha. I had grace for the job at hand.

There have been many times in life when I’ve been convinced that I am not the right person for the job. Others with their skills and confidence – they are the ones who should do these jobs. Me? I’m at best under qualified, at worst a complete impostor.

Except that to God I’m not. When he brings about the job, he’s got the grace for me to complete it. Qualifications matter not to him – in those moments he transforms our ability and we sit back in amazement. He goes abundantly beyond, and we respond with open-mouthed awe and humility.

If we feel unqualified, we’re in good company. Our Biblical models are quite the folks. We’ve got a prostitute with a past in Rahab; a teenage mom in Mary; a minority queen in Esther; a pregnant woman your grandma’s age in Elizabeth…..they were all completely unsuited for the jobs at hand. And in their unsuitability God’s grace was given to them in mighty measure, poured out, shaken together and running over.

Today I will be filling out paper work that could take me in a different direction career-wise. Everything in me screams “I’m not qualified!” With every word I type I’ll be tempted to hit delete, tempted to shout “I’m a Mary and you need a Martha!” But there’s a compelling voice inside that says move forward and until doors slam shut in my face, I will move – even if it be ever so slowly. I’ll sip my coffee, eat my muffin, and beg for grace.

So when they need a Martha and you’re a Mary; or they need a David and you’re a Jonathan – take a deep breath, step back, and move forward with coffee, muffins, and Grace.

15 thoughts on “When They Need a Martha, and You’re a Mary

  1. My Martha sister, Pat just ended up with a serious brain bleed after a bad fall “(un”decorating the church after a luncheon she had worked days on). She had just taken all her Christmas boxes out to use some of the decorations, planning to get back that afternoon. After three days in the hospital (and giving me a terrible scare),
    I am now the reason they have let her come home–I AM a Mary!! Thanks for the reminder of grace with a huge mess and a sister who really wants her “Christmas”.
    I am just so glad to have my sister–much whiter and quieter than usual–still bleeding from her ear!


  2. Marilyn, what if you’re a Martha and need/want to be a Mary? Martha was scolded for being Martha and Mary got praise for being Mary. Why would you want to be a Martha?? We are complex, all of us women. We may as well accept that fact and realize we are made up of both. And God uses all kinds of personalities to get the job done. Grace enough to go around.


  3. Another nail-on-the-head post. I keep shaking my head in wonder, thinking God should has my sister and me confused – she should be my daughter’s mom and grandmother to my grandbabies – she wanted to be a nurse, she is a goddess of organization, seeing needs, meeting needs, and oh so efficiently!! Thank you for the reminder of God’s more than sufficient grace.


    1. Jocelyn – I love your description of this – love it. I’ve felt that way so much, thinking God has surely confused me for someone else. I can imagine that your daughter and grandbabies know you are perfect for the jobs of mom and grandma.


  4. There will always be enough Grace . . . and enough loving support . . . and that inner wisdom, that “still small voice” that you call “compelling,” may actually be God speaking in the recesses of your heart!


  5. I am sure you were just enough off task to keep it from being too mechanical. And also, the tantalizing tidbit at the end? When do we get to hear what it is about?


    1. Oh – I KNEW you were a Mary! It just took a long time for me to find out officially! It’s funny how Mary is the one applauded in the Bible but in real life we all sort of want to be Martha……


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