“…but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:42).
Having grown up the only girl in a family with two brothers, I had no pre-conceived notion of what a sister should be. I had seen examples of the good and the bad lived out in the girls I knew, but I had no personal experience. I watched in wonder as the “sister” dynamic repeatedly played out: Early morning battles over “borrowed” sweaters, invaded personal space, or (Eek!) boys ended in pajama-clad giggle fests by bedtime. I was fascinated by the extreme emotional swings that took place, always settling back at center. These two facts were consistent in all of my observations: 1) every sister was unique, and 2) every sister’s love for the other was fierce. The jury was in. I wanted a sister.
As you know, sweet ladies, once we are saved by grace, we have no shortage of sisters. It amazes me how that single detail (salvation) changes everything. This summer, my friend and Woven Women Director, Mary Landis, and I had the privilege of facilitating seminars for Women’s Ministry leaders across the BRN region. It is the goal of Woven Women to provide intentional discipleship and leadership development training for these ladies, and after several years of seeking, praying, and the Lord laying the groundwork, He has begun to bring His vision into fruition. Alongside our dedicated regional volunteers, He set our hands to work. We took the same teaching, “Setting Healthy Boundaries,” to Pittsburgh, Hershey, and Philly. At each of these events, we entered the host church knowing only a few of the attendees. And at each of these events, the Holy Spirit preceded us to prepare the soil for what He was about to do. Because of His work, we soon found ourselves surrounded by kindred spirits—all sisters in the Lord. Never in my BC (before Christ) life could I enter a room filled with women I had never met and feel like I belonged. But in every instance since being saved, whether it be among the amazing women at my home church, a host church, or a Christian event, I am always coming home.
Scripture gives a poignant portrayal of sisterhood through Martha and Mary. In them, we meet two very different individuals: Martha, the elder sister and hospitality queen; Mary, the quieter spirit seeking the deep things of God. When Jesus visits them on His way to Jerusalem, we see their true nature spring to life. Martha seeks to honor Him by providing a delicious meal and comfortable respite in her home. Mary simply seeks Him.
Being a reforming Martha myself, I cannot help but close my eyes and imagine the scene: Her internal stress is evident from the perspiration beading on her forehead. A shock of hair falls from its place, which she hastily displaces with a floury hand. There is much to be done and so little time. After all, her esteemed visitor has already arrived. Bread is meticulously placed in baskets; linens folded and refolded.
As the ultimate busy homemaker scurries about, she seeks perfection in her presentation. There is little doubt that Martha’s love language is acts of service. But as she passes the group gathered in her home yet again, she sees red. How could her younger sister be so oblivious? Does she not recognize the auspiciousness of the occasion and this guest? Instead of serving beside her, she just sits there at Jesus’ feet as if she is herself a guest. The nerve! Martha lets out an unladylike “Harrumph!” aimed at Mary and stomps back to the kitchen. The clattering of clay pots grows louder. Exaggerated sighs erupt. Vegetables fly through the air as she violently chops them.
Finally, she can hold her tongue no longer. Slamming the water jug down on her work surface, she backtracks to the meeting room. Interrupting Jesus’ discourse, she spat, “’Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:40b-42). Martha has oh-so-gracefully been put in her place.
Mary recognizes how extraordinary this Jesus of Nazareth is. His presence draws her in such a way that she cannot and wants not to escape. His teachings, the likes of which she has never heard, penetrate her heart and mind. I imagine her with eyes closed as His voice washes over her, her fingers unconsciously twisting the same hair that she would one day use to lovingly wipe His feet. The demands of dishes and meal prep fall away. She is sitting at the feet of the Master!
Mary is a seeker. She is a learner. And Jesus welcomes her. That He extended that particular commendation to her as He corrected Martha was remarkable against the cultural background of the day. It changed the paradigm for women in what would be His emerging church and has been inspiring news for Christian sisters ever since.
Jesus heartened women in their faith. He utilized them in His teaching illustrations. He invited several to travel with Him and the Twelve, fulfilling vital supportive ministry roles. After His ascension, we see women actively participating in church life. In Acts 1:14, we see them as prayer warriors. We see them present in Acts 2:1-4 when the Holy Spirit appeared and among those persecuted in Acts 8:1,4. Countless women served God faithfully in the Old Testament, and their contributions will never cease to inspire. But Christ’s invitation for women to be students and co-laborers in Kingdom work has revolutionized our place at the table. We are no longer outliers. We are sisters in His family.
Jesus’ encouragement for us to soul dive into the scriptures has created a hunger that keeps us going back to the Well. It is the same hunger that draws women to Bible studies, seminars, conferences, and retreats. And I believe it is why my sister Mary and I had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful women this summer. The Hebrew word for sisters is “Achiot,” defined as “protectors that bond and impress.” This description captures what I have experienced throughout the body of Christ–from Pittsburgh to Philly and beyond. Although we may be diverse culturally and demographically, we are all sisters. We love, lift up, impact, and battle for one another. Apart, we are unique flowers; together, we become a beautiful garden. We struggle with the same fears and celebrate with the same joy. And we all have a common ache to know intimately and walk obediently with Christ.
I thank God for my Achiot. At the risk of sounding greedy, I pray that He will continue to add to their number. My life is much richer because of them, but I would never have known that if I had not let Him lead me to those unfamiliar places and faces. So take note, dear sisters: If you are shy, insecure or a homebody, you are depriving yourself of the beautiful sisterhood that is waiting just beyond your grasp. Take a deep breath, pray for courage, and step out of your comfort zone. You will not regret it. You will be blessed. And you will never be sister-less again.