Last Week of Advent: Encountering Obstacles to Joy

Raise your hand if you or any of your family members have been sick this week!  It seems as though everyone I know has been hit by this vicious stomach bug, so if you are there nodding your head in exhaustion just thinking about it, I raise my hot toddy to you my friend.

Okay, to be fair, I haven’t personally been hit that hard by the bug (so far), but my sonny, my baby girl, my older sister’s whole family, and my littlest sister (who even at one point looked at me blankly and said, “Oh I won’t get it, I never get sick”) have all been hit by it.  It’s been kind of a wild ride with many sleepless nights, accompanied with lots and lots of laundry loads.

lucy-sick

Along with the pain of seeing my little girl so miserable.

With that said, I think it is safe to assume that all the peace that I’ve been saying I’ve had this Advent has been terribly challenged.  It’s like I’ve been given one last week to be tested in order to really prep my heart for Christmas.  My prayer time has been compromised and I’ve been fighting against my inner grumpiness that wants to act out in impatience, rudeness, and exhaustion.

In all this, I had a thought about Martha and Mary once again.  I hear all the time from women (and have even said it myself) that they feel like they are more of a Martha than a Mary.  The more I reflected on this though, I’ve realized that–wait–aren’t we all Martha by condition?   I mean, as moms, we don’t exactly have all the free time in the world.  There is laundry to be done, kids to tend to, dinners to be made, floors to be vacuumed, groceries to be bought, and I can’t even imagine what you working moms have to go through having to accomplish all that while having an extra job to do (how do you do it!?).  Our vocation as moms is just naturally busy, chaotic, messy, and (mostly) exhausting.

I think maybe that is why most of us feel that we are more of a Martha and not a Mary.  We feel busy, overloaded, and just plain tired, and we long for those moments that we can just sit and relax at the Lord’s feet, listening to his every word in peace and quiet.   I thought the reason Jesus chastised Martha was merely for her work, but in further reading I’ve realized it is much deeper than that.

Martha welcomed Jesus into her home, and in an effort to be perfect for him, she forgot to really open her heart to him.  The work that Martha was overloaded with wasn’t necessarily Martha’s problem; it was her inability to recognize that Jesus was in her midst, her quickness to cast blame on others for their “lack of help”, to see her calling in that moment to serve as an encumbrance, and to be moved to accomplish her vocational task more out of anxiety than out of love.

I have always related to Martha because of her tendency to work more than to rest, but I am seeing now how God is calling me to look deeper at my relation to Martha.  I am learning that I relate more to Martha because I have been there.  All of us have to work, and most of us are living lives that are chaotic and cumbersome, but I’m beginning to see that I relate more to Martha because I know what work without charity is, and I know what impatience, edginess, and jealousy feels like.  I walk around all the time wishing that my life was more like Mary’s and that I had the time to sit in adoration of the Lord and pour out my love for him in peace, instead of picking cheerios off the floor four hundred times a day and having to do parental calisthenics all day in response to the request upon request that come from my children.   Life does not to afford me to sit in idle peace all the time.

I have to work…but the way I go about it could definitely be improved.

After Martha grumbles to the Lord about her burdens, he admonishes her, saying: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

I don’t think that the Lord was calling Martha to merely sit at his feet, so much as listen to his Word and have an intimate relationship with him.  This kind of relationship may manifest itself in different ways—and we see this with Mary and Martha: Mary, having the ability to sit and listen; and Martha having the calling to serve the Lord.  In both situations, both women are able to choose the better part, because the better part is simply recognizing that the Lord is with them, and allowing worry and anxiety to wash away.  The manifestation of being in the Lord’s company looked different for both women, but both were given the divine opportunity of being in the presence of the Lord.

I wonder what this would look like if it played out differently on Martha’s end; if instead of overloading her plate with unnecessary burdens, she accomplished those tasks that needed to be done with full charity, serving the Lord and her sister as need be, and resting when she had the chance (instead of overloading her plate in an effort to be perfect).  Maybe this way the Lord may have said to her, Thank you for having me in your home Martha—you too, have chosen the good portion.

I’m realizing that if we merely wait for these opportunities for peace and quiet in order to open our hearts to him, we may end up missing the good portion altogether.  If we merely long to be in the situation of Mary rather than working to take her heart on for own, then we will never find the peace and joy that Jesus calls us to.

I think this time of disruption in my Advent peace has been actually a good thing for me, because it’s called me to put to mind and heart everything that I have been actively working on this season.  Father Mike Schmitz says that joy is an inner state of well-being—it is a choice.  It is the sense that comes from the fruit of a life lived in God, which manifests itself in the simple and honest prayer of “Father, Thy will be done”.  So, in my work (especially when it gets messy and difficult) and the crazy haze of living out my vocation as mom and wife, I hope that I can continue to work to have a heart like Mary, recognizing that Jesus is with me.  Then, instead of grumbling in complaint, I might serve with charity, love without reserve, and find joy in my heart that thrives both in peace and under pressure.

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One thought on “Last Week of Advent: Encountering Obstacles to Joy

  1. Such a wonderful new perspective on all the work and tasks during the Holidays and all days.

    Thank you Lauren and
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!
    May you be blessed with Love and peace.

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