A Prayer to Find Holy Balance
By Mary Southerland
Now as they went on their way, He (Jesus) entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 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; so she came to Him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her’ (Luke 10:38-42, NRSV).
Friend to Friend
As I watched the movie “Twister,” I was reminded of the small Texas town where I grew up. Tornadoes were a common occurrence in Brownwood. When ominous dark clouds gathered and the possibility of tornadoes increased, warning sirens screamed a warning, and everyone headed for the nearest shelter. Our shelter was an old, musty storm cellar in the back yard where my family huddled until the “all clear” siren sounded. I hated storms and always hoped that each storm would be the last storm. It never was.
Life is filled with storms – overcrowded schedules, emotional bankruptcy, and physical exhaustion. Emotions spin out of control and chaos reigns. My first reaction is to run and hide until the storm passes. But I have come to two realizations. First, there will always be another storm. Second, I must learn to prepare for storms before they hit.
Most women I know struggle with this issue of balance. It’s hard to set and keep boundaries in place. We end up just doing “the next thing.” Balance becomes a casualty of this ongoing battle.
Frustration and darkness prosper in an imbalanced life, thriving on the vacuum of clear purpose and sure direction. The solution is to establish a holy balance, a balance that only God can bring. The lives of Mary and Martha offer a profoundly simple but practical three-step plan for living a balanced life of power and purpose.
Martha is a girl after my own heart. A perfectionist and recognized by all who knew her as disciplined, strong-willed, and energetic, Martha seemed to know who she was and where she was going. Because of her leadership in the community, people listened when she spoke. Martha was single, financially secure, and owned her own home, which she shared with her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus. They were a close family living in a small town named Bethany just outside Jerusalem.
Martha could have been considered the “Betty Crocker” of Bethany. She had the gift of hospitality and entertained often, freely welcoming friends as well as strangers into her home. Religious leaders, business executives, and virtually anyone in need, including her close friend Jesus, knew they had an open invitation to this home.
Martha seemed to be an intense woman with deep feelings and sure convictions. She loved truth and was quick to share her strong beliefs, the mark of an unwavering faith. Martha certainly had faults just as we do. I am convinced that, at times, she may have missed some of the higher moments of life because she was “too busy.” Sound familiar?
Mary, the sister of Martha, is an entirely different story. She lived for the higher moments in life. A free spirit, Mary probably saw little value in a clean house, cooked meals, and strict schedules. Nothing could compare to the cherished treasures of peace and freedom. I don’t think Mary missed many of the “Kodak moments” of life. I suspect she was an avid learner who thrived on anything that compelled her to think and reflect. Mary was almost childlike in her hunger for truth - especially spiritual truth.
Like her sister, Mary felt things deeply. Sometimes those feelings drove her to do things that others could not understand. For example, it was unusual for a woman to sit among men. But Mary did. She sat at the feet of Jesus while He taught His disciples. Lost in the wonder of hearing new truth, Mary seemed oblivious to her critics and did not appear to notice or even care what people around her thought. She found it easy to abandon herself to those she loved, and thrived on the relationships in her life. Relationships with people like the man named Jesus.
Mary was brave. To go against the “norm” by daring to be so different and perhaps even live in the shadow of her very successful and highly regarded sister took courage. Mary was human and imperfect. To some, she may have seemed lazy and flighty.
Mary is often considered the spiritual one while Martha is thought to be the not-so-spiritual one. We tend to look at their lives and say we should be like Mary.
I believe the lives of both women offer invaluable life lessons about balance. God is not the author of confusion nor does He create chaos, setting His children up to drown in the raging seas of burnout and exhaustion. We do a great job of that all on our own. But we can learn important lessons from Mary and Martha, apply them to our lives today, and experience a balance that will help us find a holy life balance.
Father, help me learn to cherish and make time to simply sit at Your feet and be in Your presence. Teach me how to discipline my steps and invest my time in a way that pleases You and honors the plan You have for my life.
In Jesus’ Name,
Editor’s note: This content was adapted from the original devotional “Finding a Holy Balance” from Girlfriends in God which can be read in full here.