“. . . only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.” – Luke 10:42
What I love about being a grandparent is that I get all the benefits of having children in my presence, yet with few of the responsibilities. They come to our house where we can play and enjoy their company; then, except for the occasional sleepover, their parents whisk them home without our having to tell them to brush their teeth and go to bed. We get to take them to Target and cater to their whims, then send the toys home to clutter up their parents’ houses rather than our own. It is their parents’ job, not ours, to supervise homework, piano practice, shuttle them to gymnastics or soccer practice or dance rehearsals. Our job is simply to show up at the resulting awards ceremonies, graduations, recitals, and sporting events. It is the parents who are charged with most of the doing. As grandparents our responsibility mostly is to simply show up. Yet, what an awesome responsibility that can be.
In the Gospel of Luke the story is told about Jesus showing up at the home of his friends Mary and Martha, who I envision had invited some of the neighbors from around their small village of Bethany to a reception at their home in honor of their famous houseguest. I can imagine Mary sitting in the living room with the other guests enjoying Jesus’ company. Meanwhile, poor Martha is left toiling away in the kitchen trying to get the hors d’oeuvre trays together, until she finally complains to Jesus that her sister is not helping out. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.”
Like Martha, we are such doers. It’s embedded our culture, it’s how we were raised, what we’ve been taught all our lives. Our identities depend on what we do, what we build and create, sell, fix, how we serve others, otherwise what value do we have? To simply be present seems . . . well it seems like we’re not doing anything. Nothing, though, could be further from the truth. In my profession of executive coaching, being “present” with the client is considered one of the most critical core competencies, yet one of the most difficult to learn and practice because we are so programmed to “do”, to fix and solve problems, when in fact we serve our clients best by simply being present. Jesus seemed to think so, too. “Come on Martha, forget the hors d’oeuvres for now. Come sit with us for a while.” Hopefully, our grandchildren appreciate our presence as well.