Youre familiar, Im sure, with the story of Martha and Mary, the two sisters of Lazarus. When Jesus visited their home, Martha was always busy, bustling, fretting, cooking, cleaning and, of course, complaining to the Lord that her sister did nothing to help.
Instead, Mary spent the afternoon sitting at Jesus feet, listening to him teach. Martha, Im convinced, was probably suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder two millennia before it was diagnosed.
When she grumbled to Jesus, he responded with an answer that startles all of us who get distraught when no one helps us with the chores: "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her."
Well, I live with a Martha, who shall go unnamed, and sometimes she cant understand that I need time just to relax and loaf and be like Mary, especially on weekends. But thats verboten in our house because my Martha wants every minute to be filled with productive activity and sometimes just plain activity even if its not productive.
Just in case I dont get the message, she routinely leaves me "To Do" lists on the kitchen table, which I cant miss when Im getting my first cup of coffee in the morning. They are usually written in very large lettering with numerous exclamation points on a full sheet of paper.
This weeks list included such helpful recommendations as "Clean the clutter off your nightstand and get rid of the books stacked by the side of the bed!!! Empty the dehumidifier!!! Go to the dump!!! Take the SUV in for emission testing!!! File the folders stacked on the floor!!! Clean out your closet!!!!!" (She obviously loves exclamation points.)
Do you know how discouraging it is to see that list the first thing in the morning on your day off, especially after a tiring week of getting up at 4:30 to commute into the city and getting home at 7:30? Sometimes I have to wonder: Will the world come to an end if I loaf a little?
I understand how poor Mary must have felt, but at least she had Jesus to defend her. Last week was the worst because I had to listen to one of my daughters lecturing me about how my brother-in-law has an equally long work day but that hes always doing yard work and handyman chores on the weekends.
OK, I admit that at this stage in life, yard work is no longer a priority. It doesnt have the same appeal it did when I was a 20-something new homeowner who wanted to impress the neighborhood. Besides, my brother-in-law is 10 years younger, and in his neighborhood, they call the police if you dont have a scrupulously manicured lawn with hedges and plantings.
I can just imagine what would happen if Jesus visited our home for dinner à la Martha and Mary. My resident Martha would say, "Lord, pick up your feet so I can vacuum, please. Lord, would you mind taking out the recyclables? I cant count on this guy to do anything. Lord, my husbands not much of a handyman and youre a carpenter, so could you fix the cabinet door thats coming off the hinges? Thank you, Lord."
You get the idea. Like Mary, Id love to choose the better portion and leave the lesser portion to the people around me; but thats just not an option in our house, especially when the lawn needs to be cut and those darn recyclables haunt my life.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.