Martha and Mary and Mike Yaconelli

Having spent 3 weeks off sick with depression, I’ve had more time than I’d like to think about a few things that have been pushing forward from the edges of my mind.

One of those things is Martha and Mary. I’m definitely a Martha. I spend way more time DOING things than I spend ‘in God’s presence’.

I hate the traditional kind of quiet time – I find it frustrating and I can’t keep my mind on what I’m doing, and then when I don’t manage it I feel guilty that I haven’t. I love to get into the Bible when I’m planning things for assemblies and youth groups and I hate that I don’t have more time to do that properly because work is so busy that a lot of it ends up thrown together at the last minute.

And the more I think about it, and about the fact that God made me the way I am for a reason, the more I don’t understand. Should I stop doing stuff and just sit? Is it really so wrong to be a Martha? And is it possible to be a Martha and still be in God’s presence as much as someone who can sit and rest and think and pray and have that elusive quiet time thing going?

Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli is a book I’ve finally had time to read while I’ve been off and it makes me think so. It ends like this: “Life is complicated. Our schedules are hectic. Following Jesus is not always easy, nor is he easy to hear in the noisiness of our lives. Religion can be hard on our bones. My fervent prayer is that throughout this book you heard the crystal-clear voice of Jesus whispering, ‘I love you.’ May you hear him in your unfinishedness, your incompleteness, your incompetence – in other words, in your particular mess. He’s there, you know.”

Join the Conversation


  1. In answer to the last part of the quote, no, I don’t know. Religion is there when you need it, and not when you don’t.

  2. C.S. Lewis said almost exactly the same thing.

    Perhaps “The Problem of Pain” by him (which I haven’t read) would be interesting for you to read? I’d like to read it too.

    Also I can’t recommend “Where Is God When it Hurts?” by Philip Yancey enough to everyone I meet.

  3. I’m not sure I understand how you feel. I’m glad my parents are there when I need them, and I might forget about them when I don’t need them and can’t see them, but they’re still there.

    Anyway, I find it’s different for me anyway – it’s when things are going well and I don’t “need” religion, that I find it easiest to believe in Christianity and feel close to God. It’s when life leads me to despair that I doubt things more.

  4. I was just reading “Messy Spirituality” last week, along with “The Ragamuffin Gospel” and “Clearing Away the Rubbish”, and “Finding God”. I can’t remember which it was now, cos they’re all mushed together in my brain, but one of them was saying how Mary was probably just as busy as Martha when Jesus wasn’t visiting. Maybe Jesus was just saying it’s not wrong to take time out if it helps you hear him and learn from him better, rather than that it is wrong if you can’t get on with this ‘being still in his presence’ approach?

  5. Oh and it also said in this book – one of them – that you can relate to God in lots of other ways too, besides the traditional ‘quiet time’. I’m not sure if I can claim that I actually do relate to God better in other ways tho – when I tell myself I’m just too busy to stop and think about anything beyond work, I don’t relate well to God in any way.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *