Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jesus at the Home of Mary and Martha

Years and years and years ago...

Clark and I had only been dating for a few weeks before Christmas rolled around and we were faced with that awkward decision whether or not to get each other gifts. When he found out that I had never seen the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off he was aghast, took the initiative and got me the DVD for Christmas. I got him... nothing. Instead, I got on a plane headed for Kuwait and hardly talked to him for three weeks over the semester break. Sometimes I can be rather self-centered. Also, when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, I'm usually pretty indifferent (not my love language, I guess). But thanks to Clark and his knack for gift giving over the years, I've gained a greater appreciation for a well-thought out present.

I loved his Christmas gift for me. Loved, loved, loved. Clark ordered a canvas print of a favorite Minerva Teichert painting, had it mounted and built a beautiful walnut frame for it. I love this painting. I love the story it depicts. I love the frame because he was the one to build it.


For those not familiar with the story, sisters Mary and Martha host Jesus and his disciples in their home. Martha busies herself with preparations to cook and serve the meal while Mary sits at the Savior's feet, listening and learning. At one point, a somewhat perturbed Martha asks Jesus if it's really alright that her sister isn't helping her? He responds that yes, it is alright for "Mary hath chosen the good part."

I love how Teichert has placed Mary at the center of the painting, bold in her red garments. She stands out to me. As if to say, "HEY MARGARET! Put down that mop and really listen right now. Listen to the Savior. Listen to your children. Listen to your spouse. The cleaning/cooking/emails/homework/whatever can wait. Just sit at my feet right now and learn about what really matters."

It's not that Martha has made a bad choice here and that's reflected in the painting. She's not far from the Savior. She appears to be attentive to what he is teaching but a little distracted. She is more muted, less noticeable. Her service is valuable to the Lord and he doesn't chastise her for choosing to prepare the meal. Instead, he lovingly tries to get her to focus on what matters most, the "good part." He's sharing his words, his teachings, his spirit and she is missing it because of all the STUFF she's preoccupied with. Sound familiar? It certainly does to me.

That's why I love this painting. It's got me thinking about New Year's resolutions and such. Like Mary, I want to sit at the Savior's feet and soak up his teachings. Like Martha, I have responsibilities I can't ignore. In a world that is FULL of distractions, it's easy to let your priorities get out of whack. This story reminds me that I ought to be more like Mary, but I can't help but notice that Martha's in the picture too. Temporal progression is important and worthwhile, but not as important and "good" as spiritual progression. I need to take time each day to study at the Savior's feet. It is there that I will find peace and direction.

In less nebulous and more quantifiable New Year's resolutions, I have just one. I want to read the entire issue of the Ensign each month. Sounds easy, right? We shall see. I thought if I made it public, I might feel more accountable and it's more likely to get done. Clark and I had a goal to not watch any TV in our bedroom but that resolution went out the window as soon as he became an invalid. Oh well, there's always next year.


Nancy said...

Loved this post.

I'm a terrible gift giver and my husband is fantastic at it. Kind of a bummer deal for him, but whatever.

And that painting/frame is beautiful. Thanks for reminding me of the story. :)

Grandma Jan said...

Thanks for the lovely post, Margaret.

Amelia said...

Beautiful picture! My huband is also an excellent gift giver, and is extremely difficult to get a gift for.
I love that story and that painting. Myabe I will just pick one thing to work on this year.

Dan and Jan said...

Love that frame! And the painting is pretty great too. I enjoyed your thoughts. Clark is thoughtful, such a rare quality.