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Martha, Mary, and the Baby

She had a sister named Mary,
who sat at the Lord’s feet
and listened to what he was saying.
But Martha was distracted by her many tasks…
Luke 10:39-40a (NRSV)

It has been more than twelve months since our baby boy arrived. It was close to his due date when I was reflecting on the similar situation Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have gone through. Some of my thoughts wandered to the outskirts of the circle–to those wise men and shepherds who brought gifts and joy to the parents of the newborn. I would only hope that all new parents would experience the same thing. But our son has quickly left the baby world behind and has joined the ranks of toddler-hood. I find myself once again reflecting on Mary, but this time it is as the sister of Martha.

A good portion of my life is spent on the floor with my baby, growing into his toddler stage. There is so much to find down here! Cheerios dropped from breakfast, tufts of cat hair, cars that slide ever so well on the kitchen floor, the spatula that makes such a cool noise when scraped across the floor. And I find myself fighting the urge to sweep up those Cheerios, place the kitchen tools back into their drawer, and vacuum those tufts of hair. But then I recall the words of Jesus to Mary and her sister Martha. Martha is the busy one–spending time preparing the meal, cleaning the house, too busy to notice what is before her. But Mary, the one with wisdom in this story, has the eyes to see who is before her, and takes time to stop and sit on the floor and take in the beauty of the moment.

My feeling is that we as parents often hurry our children along to the next stage of life. Hurry from crawling to walking, from walking to kicking a ball, to riding a bike, to driving a car, to having kids of their own. I want to be like Mary–one who takes time to be on the ground, sitting with my child taking in the beauty of shoelaces, dancing to music, and putting magnets from the refrigerator into shoes by the back door. I always want to have ears to hear the bark of a dog, the whistle of the train, the beep of a car horn. Here on the floor, I want to be reminded that there are those who labor and toil just to make ends meet. I want to have ears to hear those whose opinion rarely gets heard– who have to shout and make a scene so people will remember they are there.

But in all honesty I can’t manage to keep my Martha feelings at bay for too long. The graham cracker crumbs will get crushed into the carpet if they don’t get cleaned up. The cat offered up a fur ball that needs to be sprayed and wiped with a towel. The washing needs to be started (and dried and folded and put away), the bathrooms need cleaning, the rooms need to be tidied, and the family fed with ample amounts of play time and nap time and bed time.

For now, though, I join our son on the floor to roll around and tickle and read books and marvel at the world God has given us.

Gretchen Schoon Tanis gave birth to a wonderful boy on 20 December 2005, and is currently working diligently to balance life as a mother and PhD student through King’s College in London, England.
Gretchen Schoon Tanis

Gretchen Schoon Tanis

Gretchen Schoon Tanis is pastor of RELISH, an international congregation in Hannover, Germany. She is ordained in the Reformed Church in America and holds a Ph.D. from Kings College, London.