Through a Lens Darkly
Embracing Martha While Pining for Mary: Win-Win?
This is a vital and timely reminder for often-frayed fathers like me, who struggle daily with what seem like the irreconcilable conflicts between Mary and Martha. Like many parents, I yearn for a deeper, truer, more peaceful friendship with Christ. Yet I find myself so distracted by the constant needs of my boys that a relationship of depth seems well nigh impossible. Is there anything more frustrating than reaching the end of Mass and realizing that while your body was most definitely present, you were barely there at all?
If Mary chose the better part, what is to be done with Marthas like me—parents whose earnest attempts at spiritual growth succumb to the non-stop barrage of our children's needs?
The mistake, perhaps, is in seeing them as competing actions, or even separate ones. The longer I am a father, the more I am convinced that prayer and parenting are not disparate activities to be balanced; they are one-and-the-same. Properly understood, raising my children is cultivating a personal friendship with God. I'm not "wasting my time on less important things when I should be focused on the One that really matters." Instead, I'm sitting at His feet even as I chase my beloved, boisterous 16-month-old through the Holy Rosary cry room, or as I wade through my umpteenth Excel spreadsheet at work.
Mary and Martha, so often relegated to opposite sides of the spiritual spectrum, would doubtless recognize that I am not focused on my kids instead of God; I'm focused on them because of Him. And that praying through the distractions of my family does not render my devotions powerless, but imbues them with more power than I could ever have achieved on my own. Was it not He Himself that commanded us to let these little distractions come to Him?
Win-Win speaks to all of that, reminding fathers like me that the struggles we undertake on behalf of our loved ones are the surest manifestation of our love for them. Paradoxically, it is our willing embrace of their terrifying entanglements that will finally bring us peace.
Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. He blogs at Crisis Magazine, where he also contributes feature articles on a variety of topics.