I am Martha and anxiety is my dragon. I am constantly worried by All The To Do Lists. I fret. I hurry. My Anxiety Dragon barges around the house, nagging at children, tossing together lunches, keeping everyone on-task and on-time. Hurry up, get dressed, get going AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES ABOUT LIVING AN ORDERLY, CHRISTIAN LIFE?!
In the Gospels, we are told the story of Martha who scolds her sister for not helping with household chores. But Jesus praises Mary’s choice to simply sit and listen to Him. The interpretation I heard growing up as a Protestant was that Martha needed to repent. Get her priorities straight. Quit being so anxious.
Essentially, the message I heard was: Hey, Martha, be more like your sister, Mary!
Today I found a particular glee in learning that the Catholic Church gives Martha a feast day and not Mary. Neener-neener.
Forgive me Father, for I am gloating.
Because honestly, Mary has always kinda annoyed me. She reminds me of those useless, mystical types floating around composing spiritual poetry while utterly oblivious to the fact that there are DIRTY DISHES IN THE SINK. Which is to say, Mary reminds me of me–when I’m not Martha, that is.
Most of the time, I’m Martha. Most of the time I’m trailing chaos and to-do-lists and then when my husband, for example, tells me to just “relax,” I feel like screaming: I WILL RELAX AFTER ALL THE CHILDREN ARE PROPERLY RAISED AND OUT OF THIS HOUSE.
What gives me hope in times like these is that the Church is quite tender toward Martha. She is not remembered for her human mistakes but rather for her mettle, grit and courage. Yes, she had her very human moments of Bossing Her Sister. But that wasn’t what defined her. The Church honors her she spoke up. And she went on to do great things.
There’s even this ancient legend that claims she was a dragon slayer. Yeah. St. Martha The Dragonslayer.
During the persecution of the Church shortly after Jesus’ ascension, Martha came across a village that was being terrorized by a dragon. The villagers said they would convert if she was able to slay their dragon. So, she did.
Oh, this makes me chortle with glee. St. Martha The Dragonslayer. Because OF COURSE SHE IS. That bold, brave woman who spoke her mind to Jesus went on to kick some dragon-tail. Yeah, she did!
I mean, I don’t really care whether it was a literal dragon or not. The point is, Martha wasn’t narrowly defined by her human mistakes. This is QUITE a different view of Martha than I ever learned about during my Protestant upbringing! And I DIG it.
Because I have my own dragons, oh yes I do. And despite all my fumbling human mistakes, I take heart in knowing my story isn’t done yet. I’ve slain some pretty serious dragons. I’ve crushed them under MY FEET. I’ve broken chains and sundered vicious cycles of pain. And yes, even when I fail and make mistakes, I can still go on and live a victorious, dragonslaying life!
I may be Martha, cumbered about with much serving. But I shall yet slay dragons!