The story of Mary and Martha is one of my favorites in scripture. When, in response to Martha’s rebuke against her sister for not helping her with her chores, Jesus tells her to stop worrying and affirms Mary for choosing the better course, it gave the direction of my soul an authentication and authority straight from the mouth of God. Sure, it may be easy to say that most everyone would choose to listen to the Son of God over doing housework, but for me it was so much more than that. The affinity that I have for education and learning parallels another’s for sports, or music. It is when I’m in the pursuit of new information to broaden my ever-expanding world that I feel the happiest, hopeful and most successful. Had I been Martha’s sister, I wouldn’t have sat smugly listening to Jesus retort to my sister, I would have quickly stuck out my tongue at my nagging sister in an infantile vindication of my chosen path…and sadly, today it would literally be hanging out all the time. It is sad that in today’s culture I almost feel the need to apologize for all the sheepskin trailing behind me. I readily acknowledge the talents of the men in my house, that their affinity for sports, health or acuity in computers largely remains uncontested. But whenever intelligence or education comes up, I’m just being arrogant or a know-it-all. And that is just unfair. I attended the classes, I did the work, I wrote every paper, attended every class, finished every internship, and I finished and paid for every degree. And like some are just really adept at sports or a host of other talents…my brain may be more adept for knowledge than a lot of other people…it is neither good or bad, it just is.
The greatest irony, though, lies in the fact that once done listening to Jesus…I’m sure Mary was up half the night doing chores because I’m pretty sure not one of the disciples pitched in to cover the slack. Sadly, that is the tenure of the workings of my house as well. Am I suited to the domestic arts because I am a woman? Compared to the men at my house, that would be a yes…but only because they all miss the common sense gene that is necessary to maintain a household. Otherwise, I would never choose the task…but I suck it up and do it anyway because I don’t want to suffer bodily harm because “someone” thought the wood floors would look pretty if they sprayed a whole can of pledge on them making them dangerous to walk on with socks, or being so excited to eat the soup they cooked, they forget to turn off the burner. In my family, support for the men in my house falls to me, because it seems that most obvious and best way we can all be successful and stay alive. Even though the men in my house don’t always appreciate the synergy that my role has created..my big brain does. Most importantly it was and is my choice to do so and not because of some predilection to some inherent role women are supposed to play. Most days I do feel that I made the right choice pursuing so many different academic roads, even though it may be more difficult to show the success of those degrees financially or when my arms are knee-deep in a toilet or answering phones at our clinic. I do think it makes be better at everything I do. Which brings me to the most important point.
I remember those brave women who have fought for us so that we are availed equal opportunities to utilize our God-given gifts and follow our dreams, whatever they may be. So I fear a back slide into a past that held us to a propriety that was more a mask of control than anything else. It does make me angry at those men in the world who claim superiority as their God-given right, especially under the auspices of scripture. Why does one line from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians hold greater weight than the words and actions of Jesus? In the Gospels, the conversations he has with women make clear the regard he has for them as people. Mary, learning at Jesus knee was credited for making the greater choice…the operative word being “choice…” something women didn’t have much of in Jesus time, yet I am continuously befuddled at those who would judge women for making the same choice today. My choice to play a supportive role in my family is a result balancing talents and what works best for us…not because of some preordained role dictated by God. Submitting to any man has never been within my realm of experience…just ask my father, brothers, husband and sons. But I have chosen to stand in support of many men in my life, which I can do while still sharing the vast stores of knowledge in my big brain. Whether they listen is another story….