It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else. – Erma Bombeck
A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform. – Diane Mariechild
Today is International Woman’s Day. Today we celebrate women everywhere. We seek liberation. We desire wholeness and acceptance for ourselves and all peoples we take part in creating.
Today I offer this; a reflection on Martha & Mary. Two friends of Jesus.
Luke 10:38-42 – The Message
38-40 As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before Jesus, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Jesus, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”
41-42 Jesus said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”
Here we have two sisters receiving Jesus. One goes to the kitchen to prepare food, to make the home as hospitable as she can (a good thing, even by today’s standards). She begins bustling around the house to make sure Jesus (the only man in the story) is taken care of. She is doing all the things expected of her. Not only is she seeking to be the good hostess but she is knowing her place. She knows where she belongs…in the kitchen, away from men. You see…in that time (as can be found in some places today) women were seen as property and therefore valued for what they produced over who they were. Back then women were treated as a commodity, traded for livestock and only deemed necessary for their producing womb. Women were instructed to be silent unless spoken to, and were seen only for ‘womanly’ work….
The other sister, Mary, does not spend time in the kitchen. She does not concern herself with the duties typically expected of her nor does she conform to the expected gender roles of that society. Where Martha knows her place, Mary defies the roles and the expectations opting instead to be with Jesus.
Where this defies the day’s stereotypes it goes perhaps, one step further and suggests a defiance to all things normally appropriated or assigned as ‘woman.’ Mary was pushing against more than helping in the kitchen – she was seeking acknowledgement, acceptance and place with Jesus. She felt at-home with Jesus – not Martha.
She is preferring to be where the men are, to be in the company of men. For Mary to sit in the room where men belong is to claim her equal place among them, to be one of them. Given that these two sisters were a product of a society where women were material objects, freely traded, exploited, disregarded and eliminated; for Mary to take her place with Jesus pushes against more than her bodies’ sexuality but towards her inner personal identity, beyond the body she is trapped in, towards the body she identifies with.
Where Martha relegates herself to the kitchen, Mary stays in the front room – engaging Jesus. Where Martha concerns herself with providing, Mary concerns herself with participating as an equal..In verse 39 it says she “hung on his every word.” Where one sees Jesus as a guest where all the best china, best food and best behavior are pulled out…. Mary sees Jesus as her liberator… the one to absorb and be in company with without pretense, without regard to what the ‘world’ expects, to sit before him simply with who she is, in all its nakedness.
Martha doesn’t like this. She gets angry. She calls out to Jesus, trying to point out how Mary is not doing what she is supposed to do. She is urging Mary to get in line, act right, conform and come back to where we belong…act the way we are supposed to act.
How does Jesus respond to Martha’s protest?
Jesus’ lacks concern for the desires of Martha. Her concerns are not his. He does not care that Mary is not conforming to the expectations set upon her by society. Jesus is not interested in Mary’s compliance to stereotypes nor any notions of gender conformance; he is not interested in the rules, the roles and the boundaries of this world.
Like Mary, Jesus is interested in our sitting at his feet, soaking in all the liberation and freedom that knowing him brings. Jesus wants us to drop pretenses, forget conforming, be free to express who we are without worry about any societal constructs. Simply and freely come as we are…To Jesus, it makes no difference what sex we are or the one you identify with… Stop listening to what the world says …. Come listen to what Jesus says.
Happy International Woman’s Day …. May all woman everywhere live into who they are. May all people, regardless of their bodies live into who they are.