Are you Martha or Mary?

“But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. And Jesus answered and said under her, Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen the good part….” St. Luke 10: 40-42

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a very family centered church.  Men’s and women’s lives center around raising families in the gospel.  Messages directed to women expect most to experience marriage and motherhood.  Yet, there are many singles, childless, or widows who face a potentially lonely time perhaps feeling excluded and ignored by ward members or even leaders.  Sadly,  the real spiritual and emotional needs of such sisters seem to be ignored.  Usually, advice includes ‘serve more’, ‘get involved’ as though service were a unidirectional act that would heal their loneliness. I do not downplay service as a righteous act, just that it simplifies a very complex social/religious circumstance.

I have been in this position both as a long-time single, and then childless married woman.  Instead of bemoaning others’ lack of sympathy, charity, or understanding, I have forged an identity, a religious practice that truly meets my needs.  That is being a contemplative LDS.   What a wonderful journey of discovery, peace, love,  and joy this has brought.   Even if I could rush around as do other people, I choose to create a deep prayer life. I have become as Mary and prefer to sit at the feet of the Savior and listen.

The Prologue of the Rule of Saint Benedict (a sixth century guide for monastics still in use in Catholic monasteries today) starts with  “Listen…. to the master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” p. 15   In this context, “master” is the abbot who is a representative of Christ.  I love the imagery of the ‘ear of your heart’.  Not normally do I associate the heart with hearing.  Do we hear with our heart?  Do we suspend activity to really listen to perhaps a still small voice?   Noise blocks heavenly communication which is why in our most holy of houses, the temple, we speak in whispers if at all.  We are there to receive instruction.  To listen.

As singles, or childless, or widows we have much more control over our time, over our noise levels. Turn off the television.  Turn down the radio.  Learn to get used to silence and use that silence as an invitation to listen to the Savior through scriptures, meditation, and prayer.  Draw close to the Savior and He will draw close to you and fill any void of loneliness you thought you had.  Solitary life need not be lonely.  On the contrary, it can bring a genuine spirituality that the Marthas of the world do not get to experience.