Wednesday, March 29, 2006

martha and mary, installment two

…she was shrewd in the marketplace, skilled with the ledgers, gifted in the kitchen, and favored by the land. But in the end this earned her not respect but disdain from both men and women alike. Now that the Teacher was here, however—now that would all change.

But not if I don’t get some help in here, Martha fumed, her cheeks flushed from both irritation and exertion. She did not begrudge her siblings the responsibility she bore for them—indeed, she bore it with a certain air of martyred pride. She knew she was competent—no, more than competent—she did more than three women and she handled the burden placed upon her as if it had been made to fit. But a burden made-to-fit was a burden nonetheless, and there were days when the weight of it all threatened to overwhelm her, which vexed her to no end. And when Mary pulled stunts like this, well, the burden became a chaffing aggravation and Martha rubbed with bitterness and resentment.

Looking down at her flour-covered garments, Martha indulged the self-pity rising up within her. Surely the teacher must notice how she leaves the work to me. Surely he will say something. It is not right for her to sit there doing nothing while I slave away in here! Surely he will rebuke her. The thought buoyed Martha’s spirits for a moment, but as time went on it became clear no such rebuke was coming, and her anger began to boil over, making a further mess of the kitchen. He didn’t seem to care, either! No one seemed to care that she was taking care of everything while everyone else lounged at his feet, listening to his senseless stories that mystified her and caused her to shake her graying head with confusion.

What good were stories? What good did they do them? Did they pay their taxes? Did they put food on the table? No! They merely stirred up dreams and visions in the hearts of her siblings, rendering them more useless than before, increasing Martha’s burden and frustration. Stories, indeed! She had a family to provide for—she had no time for such foolishness. After all, if she didn’t take care of matters, who would? The town had not offered any help—sure, they pitched in for a few months after her parents’ deaths, a few of them for even a year or more—but where were they now? Even the cousins had disappeared, only coming around when they needed something, as if there was anything to spare. No, there was no time for sitting at the Master’s feet… not when there was work to be done. And for Martha, there was always work to be done.

Ouch! Martha looked down at her finger, blood mingling with the juice of the vegetables she’d been slicing. Her eyes stung with tears that she wiped away as quickly as they came. That’s it! She slammed the knife down on the table, gathering up her skirts and dusting off what flour had not sunk into the cloth of her garment. Hair askew and face aglow with anger, Martha marched into the room where the Teacher sat, Mary at his feet, just as she had predicted. He looked up at her with surprise as she stood there, breathlessly, waiting for him to speak, to offer help, to apologize for the thoughtlessness of her sister. He cocked his head to the side, questioning her with his eyes, not certain what she wanted from him.

In exasperation, she blurted out what she assumed to be obvious— “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” The plea in her voice was unmistakable—surely he would help her. Surely would jump to his feet and make things right. Surely he would appreciate all that she had done. But he didn’t move. She stared at him bug-eyed, breathless from her outburst, and tried desperately to read the look in his eyes.

“Martha,” he began. “Oh, Martha…”

(to be continued)

1 comment:

Erin said...

Lorie- These are great! I'm looking forward to the next, even thought I'm pretty sure I know where its heading!!