Faith&Spirituality, Identity, Motherhood, Writing Sample

The Better Part: A Mother’s Perspective on Slowing Down and Being Still

“Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She 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.” –Luke 10:38-42 (NRSV)

Sipping my deliciously warm and comforting coffee, with my feet propped up and my body teetering back and forth in my favourite rocking chair, I sit and gaze down at my journal. Pen in hand, I yearn to write but lack inspiration. My three-year-old daughter is watching a comical animated film, the characters are bantering back and forth, and–oh, perfect–now they’re breaking out in song. The song is unavoidably catchy, stimulating the part of my brain I need for my pen to move freely across the blank page. I wish I could have silence to better enjoy and make use of my “quiet” time. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be out in nature?

Ah, nature: with its slow, quiet sounds and open spaces. Perhaps that’s why I love going biking and taking walks, and why I have an unfillable need to be around horses. I have a hard time doing anything productive when I am surrounded by such beauty as nature. It’s where my soul comes most alive but when I’m also the farthest from my duties, chores and constructive goals. Perhaps it’s because I find God there.

Where the wind rustles the leaves and the sun’s warmth kisses my face, I for once in my life don’t need to force myself to “be still.” No. My whole being just relaxes and the stresses of “go-go-go” go away. My feet no longer touch the ground and I am in Heaven, just me and God sharing in the fulfilling happiness of eternity. Our earthly concept of time has no meaning there, no consequences, no measure of productivity or time wasted. I am free to sit and contemplate God. What a marvelous thought that this peace and tranquility could be a taste of the otherworldly joy that awaits us in Heaven.

No wonder why I love nature so much! To embody the freeing sensation of being around horses, to gaze up at a romantic night sky covered in stars, to wakeup to the fluorescent green of wild, dew-dripping foliage while on a camping trip or to sit at the waters edge as the warm wind offers an intimate caress, filling not only my lungs but also my soul. That is Heaven; that is God.

We need more slow meanderings like this. Too often I feel like a failure for not doing enough well enough or consistently enough. Perhaps the very reason why we can never actually exist at such a high-functioning rate without inevitably burning out, is because God keeps calling us away from this busyness, to “be still” with Him.

The Truth, Beauty and Goodness of God are too great for Satan to beat. If he can’t win, then what pleasure could the deceiver gain? Perhaps this continued distraction and burnout, this need for “go-go-go” is all part of Satan’s scheme to fill us with guilt should we choose to sit and be with God, with our contemplative selves, with our kids or to quietly be united with our souls. What a clever adversary!

Satan has warped the very way in which we measure our self-worth. A good day is a productive day, a mediocre day is a distracted one and a bad day is a lazy day. Our value is weighed by our ability to perform and function. To sit and do nothing would be a sin! To even try and sit becomes this uncomfortable thing that we fill with the deafening stimulation of television, internet, radio and the like; because to sit and do nothing would be a shameful waste of our time and resources.

As a mother, every second of my time is precious. Every task has to be chosen, measured, discerned, rushed through and completed. From one thing to the next: “GO-GO-GO!” I need to obtain some form of accomplishment with every effort, to the point that even sitting to be with my children without simultaneously checking something off my to-do list becomes painful. I am filled with anxiety and guilt just thinking about it!

I can see the dust accumulating under the couch as I build the Lego house with my six-year-old son. My heart is pumping, my internal alarm clock is sounding off. “You’ve just wasted an hour,” that inside voice screams in panic.

How backwards–how messed up–is that!?

My children will be shaped by my actions and by the way I chose–I choose–to spend my time. How special the memories of Mommy setting aside the laundry to help complete that 100-piece puzzle? It is important for us to care for our homes, our work, our hobbies and such, but it is equally important to allow some of those things to wait so we can “be still.”

What version of me will best shape my children to better connect with others and with God? The busy, over-achieving work-a-holic or the more balanced, fun-loving Mom who danced with them as the dust-bunnies swirled around our bouncing feet?

It should be obvious but the pressures of our culture, our society and our own consciences skewer our priorities, keeping us slaves to this vicious cycle of doing versus not doing, of being productive versus being lazy, of being a good mom versus being a bad mom, of being a good wife versus a bad wife…the list goes on. Why do we need to make life so complicated? Did not God say to not be anxious and worry about these trifles?

“[…] do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? […] Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ […] But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

–Matthew 6:25-26, 31, 33-34 (NRSV)

There is something seriously wrong with our culture if a mother feels she must neglect quality time with her children for the sake of being able to “do it all” without being perceived as “lazy.” Maybe that was Satan’s plan all along.

I never understood the Bible story of Martha and Mary. In my mind, Martha was always the more virtuous of the two sisters. I could not understand why Jesus would praise Mary for doing the “better part,” for abandoning her sister to do all the work by herself. Wasn’t Martha being saintlier by putting her desires aside to serve Jesus instead?

Now six years and four kids later, I have come face-to-face with the importance of this scripture passage and what it truly means. When I take time for myself and disregard my schedule, when I sit and sip my coffee and stare out the window, when I give myself the freedom to seek God, to listen and observe, that’s when I am being like Mary. No filling in the silence with other escapes: TV, internet, exercise, projects and duties.

When I stop to “be still,” I am with God. Understanding and making time for this balance is crucial.

If the vacuum is plugged in, ready to go, and my three-year-old daughter asks me to dance with her, postponing my chore to spin her around for five minutes is not careless or wasteful. It is being Mary for a moment before returning to the dutifulness of Martha. It is me sitting with Jesus and choosing “the better part.”

Lord, in a world that pushes for production, performance and constant stimulation, I ask for the grace to slow down–without guilt–and take time to “be still.” Help me to discern when I should be like Martha or when I need to be more like Mary, called to sit with You, to choose the “better part.” Amen.

Thank you for reading and, as always, God bless!


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