about writing and life and God

That old Mary and Martha thing – again

on January 24, 2013

I have never poisoned anyone. Not deliberately.

Bubble, bubble... butternut squash soup

Bubble, bubble… butternut squash soup

In fact, not to my knowledge. Though I admit my friends are a very tolerant bunch (they’d have to be!) so they may just not have told me.

The funny thing is that things like not poisoning people with your cooking is so expected of the female of our species that it’s almost in the job description.

Along with a lot of other stuff. Mainly what I might call Martha stuff.

Which is a problem for folk for like me. I’d much prefer to be a Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet drinking in his teaching. (My equivalent is a decent amount of study time with Bible and commentaries, notebook and a mug of coffee, lunch, then more reading.)

And it crosses my mind that wasn’t it nice for Mary to have sister Martha to do the housework and the cooking, and maybe brother Lazarus to shovel the snow? The Proverbs 31 woman also had a husband and a household which included servants. Nice.

I don’t. I live alone and today, I’m late writing today’s blogpost because I’ve spent an hour and a half Marying at Bible study group and then working up a most unMarylike sweat shovelling snow and ice off my drive so I can get the car out safely tomorrow.

Mary? Martha? Oops, add in Lazarus as well. Because that’s what women on their own have to do (and I’m sure I can clearly hear the cries of women not on their own who also have to tackle these tasks). All the ‘traditional bloke’ tasks (including chopping wood and hauling water, seeing to the oil and the tyres on the car as well as the road tax, fishing spiders out of the bath and little harvest mice from the cats…).

I suppose I could try the ‘Poor little me. I need a big strong man to come and help me’ technique. Unfortunately it would make me giggle too much. Also I’m far too much the strapping Scot who shifts (double) wardrobes single-handed. It just wouldn’t work. And to be frank, I wouldn’t want it to work.

I relish my competence and my independence, both hard-won. But still in so many churches, the only tasks available to women are flower-arranging and tea-making. Was it frustration with these limited roles that drove the older women in the early church to drink so St Paul had to lecture them in his letters about it?

Finding out that according to one personality test I’m a mutually contradictory otter and golden retriever can be a bit of harmless fun(see yesterday’s blogpost) – but pigeon-holing folk – especially using outdated or culturally inappropriate typologies – is, I would dare to say, disrespectful to our wonderful Creator whose reach is so much bigger than we can imagine.

Jesus was unsurprised to have Mary sitting at his feet in a world where females were not allowed the learning-to-be-a-rabbi position, which is where she was. And He actually rebuked Martha who was sure she was getting her role and responsibilities right.

We are unsurprised by the amazing variety of flowers and butterflies and lichens and stars. Each is God’s creation and gift to us, to enrich our world and our lives.

Those of us who feel we don’t quite fit in any of the standard moulds – maybe it’s time to celebrate our uniqueness, and our God who made us so. And the way to do that is to be ourselves.




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