An Excerpt from Daily Grace: The Mockingbird Devotional, Vol. 2, by Sarah Condon. To order a copy, click here.

[Martha] 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.” (Lk 10:39-42)

The story of Mary and Martha can easily fit into a narrative of all of the unfair stories in the Gospel. Like the workers in the vineyard (Mt 20) or the prodigal son (Lk 15), we can put Mary in the category of the one who is not doing anything and yet is still God’s beloved. And if that song makes your heart sing, then go ahead and belt it out.

But Mary was not doing nothing. She was hearing everything. Even her position, seated on the floor at the feet of Jesus, suggests the position of rabbinical students at the feet of their holy teacher. When Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better part, he is telling us that Mary has chosen to hear the Story. Mary is taking the time to learn who Jesus is. And she is learning that those late-to-the-grapes employees and that derelict younger brother are her people. And that Jesus is her savior.

We all want to defend Martha. Because, like her, we believe that if we can just keep moving, then we will not have to face the horrible and beautiful truth. We will not have to hear the Story. If we scrub all of the grime from the stovetop, perhaps we can also scrub away our addictions, affairs, and hurtful ways. Perhaps we can make ourselves clean.

And who could blame us? We live in a Martha culture. We define ourselves by the cleanliness of our houses and less by the cleanliness of our hearts. The former feels tangible and doable. But the latter feels like an impossible task. How could we ever live without sin?

We cannot. But we can count on and learn from the sinlessness of Jesus, who came to save us from ourselves.

Jesus famously said that the poor will always be with us. Well, so will that dirty kitchen.

So take a metaphorical (or an actual) seat on that unswept kitchen floor. Stare up at the One who calls you beloved. The dishes will still be there in the morning.