This is a guest post by Liz Wann.
Resting around my house can be quite difficult. My two boys don’t take naps anymore, and the only time I feel like I can “get away” is through handheld devices and copious amounts of snacks. But of course I can’t do that for too long or I feel guilty. So, the work doesn’t end, and it feels like there is no true Sabbath for me. Resting on the seventh day just doesn’t seem possible. How can a busy mom find rest for herself? It’s ultimately through cultivating a place of rest that can never be taken away and isn’t restricted to one day of the week. It’s a place of rest in the heart, rooted in a particular person.
Mary was acquainted with this person. It was at the feet of Jesus where she found her rest. Her sister, Martha, was engaged in anxious toil. As moms it would be so easy to side with Martha; she is more relatable to us. We are “busy with much serving”, because we have to be. We’re always needing help, and wondering why on earth some people are relaxing when we’re slaving away in the kitchen. I would totally point my finger at Mary and think she was just lazy. Though Martha asks Jesus to reprimand her sister (Luke 10:40), Martha is the one who gets the reprimand. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).
Jesus flips things around in his usual way. So, the woman sitting around doing nothing is right and the woman serving is wrong? It’s perplexing at first, until we see what Jesus is getting at. Martha’s serving was good, but she was not operating out of a place of rest. As moms it’s normal to be “anxious and troubled about many things”. We can worry about our children’s behavior, their future, their education, their eating habits. We can worry about the state of our homes, the state of our bank accounts, and our success in life and mothering. There is no shortage of things to be troubled about. But Jesus stops us and asks, “Have you chosen the good portion?” And in all the anxious toil of motherhood he reminds us that only one thing is necessary amidst all the craziness: himself. Jesus came to fulfill the Sabbath and be our eternal rest.
Jesus is the reason for our busy serving. When our eyes are more focused on the mounting pile of dishes and unfolded clothes, we can become like Martha. But if, like Mary, our eyes are on Jesus, then we can serve out of a restful heart. Paul Tripp says this: “The most important thing you do for your children is to remember the one who sent you, and in remembering the one who sent you, teach your heart to rest.”
We learn rest from the one who is rest. When we heap the heavy mothering burdens of the day or week on our shoulders he tells us this: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). The burdens we put on ourselves as moms can be crushing, but Jesus tells us to come and learn from him (sit at his feet, like Mary). What are we learning from him? To be gentle and lowly in heart. This is how we find rest in him. When we stop thinking everything is up to us and dependant on our success as moms. His yoke is easy and light for us, because he’s put everything on his shoulders. Our rest is found in putting our burdens on the one who was meant to carry them for us. These are the ancient paths where we find rest for our souls: “Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).
Let’s walk in the good way, the good portion given to us in Christ. Our striving and our anxious toil can be laid at the foot of the cross, because it’s not about us, it’s about the one on that tree. He’s taken care of what’s most important for us, like he said to Martha, “The one thing that is necessary.” Martha didn’t know at the time that Jesus was about to die for her sins, but he was pointing her to salvation found in him. He was about to take on the burdens of his people and crucify them with his own body. Then he rose to offer us his new burden, which is easy and light, because he already paid the cost of the old burdens of the law. Moms, we’re now under the burden of grace, not the burden of the law. Let this truth seep into your weary soul and give you rest.
Liz Wann is a freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two sons, and a daughter on the way. She is Editor in Chief at Morning by Morning and regularly contributes to Desiring God, Think Christian, Christ and Pop Culture, and the ERLC. You can find more of her writing at lizwann.com and follow her on Twitter @liz_wann.