I’m sure I can’t be the only lady on here who has some serious sympathies with Martha. For those who don’t remember, she was the lady who opened her home to Jesus, and, while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to his teachings, Martha ‘was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made’.
Like Martha, I spend so much of my time fussing and hosting, tidying and cooking, wanting everything always to be perfect for my guests. In many ways I consider hosting my friends and family to be primary vocation, and love nothing more than fussing over others and making sure their time visiting me is perfect. I’m also a workaholic, not so much because I adore my work, but because I am so afraid of being seen as lazy. I have an almost obsessive need to show how hard I’m working, for fear others won’t like me.
Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, You are upset and worried about many things, but only one thing is needed.
I knew God was right, I needed to slow down, to listen to His word, to do what he wanted for me and stop worrying about what others thought of me. But in true, human, fallen style, I ignored Him, and fussed and worried and hosted and fretted about work.
Until I was struck down with a kidney infection.
It came as a shock – completely out of the blue. In the space of about three hours I went from enjoying my weekend of relaxation to lying on a bed in A&E, in immense pain, tubes and wires everywhere. I was even hosting a dinner party the night before (oh, the irony).
Thankfully, while the infection was serious and painful, it was caught early enough to be easily treatable. In the early hours of Sunday morning I crawled back into bed, overwhelmed with pain and with gratitude. Gratitude at my incredible husband, who kept his characteristic good humour whilst running all over the city at crazy hours to pick up drugs, food, and everything else I needed. Gratitude for my amazing friend, who stayed awake with me on the far side of the world texting me with love and support. Gratitude for the exceptional doctors and nurses who provided such wonderful medical care, and gratitude that I live in a country where I pay nothing for the privilege.
And shame, that I had appreciated none of these properly before.
Thanks to painkillers, I was able to spend the rest of the week pain-free but considerably weakened. Great, I thought, at home all week with no work. Time to catch up on housework, cooking, my projects, my writing. What a fabulous idea!
Spoiler alert, people. It was not a good idea.
My body was screaming for rest. Every move I made exhausted me, but I was so worried about not being seen as lazy that I tried to push through it until I just made myself sicker. Then the antibiotics kicked in in full force, and I wasn’t able to do anything except lie in bed and try and fight off the overwhelming nausea. As I was drifting in and out of sleep, it struck me that I had been treating my body the way I had been treating my soul – ignoring what it really needed and trying to push through on my own agenda, rather than God’s.
Our souls are crying out for God, every day, every hour. But instead we’re wrapped up in our day-to-day struggles and work, whether that’s a day job, keeping the house clean, raising little ones, doing the laundry… my chore list is endless, and I’m sure yours is too. But whilst we busy ourselves with these, we are dulling our spiritual needs and instead filling our time with secular struggles, leaving less and less time for God.
What makes the deception so easy to fall for is that all these tasks really are important, so it’s easy to convince ourselves that they’re more important than God. Yes, the children need to be fed. Yes, everyone needs clean clothes, so you’ve got to do the laundry, and the house needs tidying, and yes, the insurance needs renewing. They’re all important tasks – but they’re not as important as God.
So I challenge you, right now, to give yourself the spiritual equivalent of a dose of vitamins. Put everything down and stop reading this (okay, read to the end, then stop). But close the computer. Turn your phone off. Stop chopping dinner, sorting laundry, whatever it is you’re doing. Give yourself a few minutes away from the chore list and pray the rosary.
Yes, the rosary, that one, the one that takes time. Stop everything and speak to your Mother. Nothing you are doing now is as important as that.
So what if you only get half way through before there’s a sibling squabble that needs arbitrating, a child that needs holding or feeding, a meal that needs cooking? Mary will be glad to have spoken with you, even if only for a few minutes. And you’ll have taken one step, however small, to joining her – and stepping out of the ranks of the Marthas.
Antonia Goddard is a writer and playwright based in London, UK. A country girl born and bred, she’s currently learning the joys and struggles that come with life in a big city – and offering both to God. When she’s not writing or reading historical fiction, she’s probably cooking. Definitely not burning things.