Tuesday, March 28, 2006

martha and mary

Part one of a piece inspired by my women’s group discussion on the same topic…

The clay vessel landed with a hard thud on the wooden surface, leaving yet another dent in the well-worn tabletop. Where is my sister? Martha’s agitation had gotten the best of her over half an hour ago, and the table was not the only inanimate object suffering for it. She slammed another bowl down as she hastily continued her preparations, not entirely caring who heard her banging about. Why doesn’t she come help me? They had guests to look after—important guests—and, as usual, her sister was conspicuously absent from the kitchen.

She wiped the sweat from her permanently-furrowed brow, leaving behind a trail of flour quickly hidden by the loose locks of hair continually escaping from behind her ears. Does she not know who we entertain? Hosting the Rabbi would bring honor to their marriage-less home and redeem them if only a mite in the eyes of their fellow villagers. It was imperative that all be perfect—they must be pleasing to the Master. Of all days, couldn’t she at least help me today?

Martha knew exactly where she’d find her sister, had she even the time to go looking for her. Far more interested in the exchange of ideas than in the management of the home, Mary would undoubtedly be with the men. Never mind that it was inappropriate—that it wasn’t her place to sit among the scholars at the foot of the teacher—no, Mary was not bothered with notions of propriety in the slightest, in fact, she barely even seemed to notice. But Martha noticed. She noticed a great deal.

It is true that Martha resented the lack of help. But even more than that, truth be told, she resented the attention the men paid to her sister, treating Mary as if she were an equal. Did Martha not run their household as efficiently and effectively as any man and woman combined? Did she not provide well for herself and her siblings? 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…

(to be continued)

1 comment:

lorie said...

Editorial note: I am taking obvious liberties based on my personal interpretation of the text in Luke 10:38-42. This piece was inspired by a teaching on balance and therefore probably reflects more of myself than either Martha or her sister.

So don't freak out about it.