Verses 40–42: “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.’”
The story of Mary and Martha is one of the most well-known stories of the New Testament. It is often presented as a reminder to take time from the busyness of life to listen to the voice of God. Considered from the perspective of Jungian psychology, Mary, Martha, and Jesus symbolize energies within our psyche/soul.
Mary represents the part of us that seeks to listen and hear the voice of our larger Self/God Within. She shows up within as the urge to search, seek, study, pray, contemplate, and practice different spiritual (including personal growth) beliefs and disciplines. We can connect Mary to what Carl Jung called the individuation instinct. The individuation instinct is an inborn drive, an automatic longing and desire that pull us towards a conscious relationship with the Self/God Within.
The longing and seeking to connect with the Self/God Within is often thwarted or criticized by the Martha in us. Martha represents the outer-directed ego that dismisses the value and need for quiet times of self- and Self-reflection and listening. We, with our ego/self, get focused on our roles. The learned response, or “right thing to do,” crowds out the option of listening for the Self/God Within to direct us in the moment. Martha was concerned about her role as hostess. She was busy with the tasks of serving others, including Jesus. Yet, she was missing the opportunity to connect with him.
We too can get so focused on our ways of connecting to the Self/God Within that we miss the opportunity to be with our selves/Selves! The disciplines of journaling, studying, working with dreams, structured worship, yoga, etc. can become more important than being still and listening to hear the Self/God Within in the moment. This Scripture reminds us that being still and quiet, listening for the voice of the Self/God Within, is “the better part” of being in the presence of the Self.
Take a few moments to listen for the voice of the Self/God Within. Be open to feeling the inner movement towards a still, quiet place within you where you sense and know the presence of the Self/God Within.