What does it mean for overachieving women to rest as God’s daughters without compromising their God-given design as doers? Are you a to-do-list-checker like Martha in the Bible who wants hope-filled freedom without abandoning your doer’s heart in the process?
Bible Gateway interviewed Katie Reid (@Katie_M_Reid) about her book, Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done (WaterBrook, 2018) (read the first chapter).
Why do you think the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 causes so many women to feel guilty?
Katie Reid: Since Jesus told Martha that she was worried and distracted and that her sister Mary had chosen what was better, we often feel guilty for being wired like Martha. We feel like Mary was the poster child for getting it right and that Martha was discounted because she was worried and distracted.
In John 11:5 we see that Jesus loved Martha and her siblings. His correction wasn’t a scolding but an invitation to walk in freedom instead of fret.
Many of us have tried to shed the skin of efficiency because we’ve misinterpreted this passage to mean there’s something wrong with being made like Martha.
We usually assume that Jesus was criticizing Martha for working too hard. Would you say that’s true?
Katie Reid: I don’t think Jesus was criticizing Martha’s work ethic here. In fact, unless he was going to multiply loaves and fish, fast from a meal, or have a late dinner, someone had to prepare the food. Instead, Jesus addressed Martha’s heart in Luke 10. He wasn’t asking her to stop being a doer; he was reminding her she was a daughter too.
We assume that Jesus was asking Martha to sit down physically like Mary was, but what if he was inviting her soul to rest—even while she continued working?
In John 12:2, we see that Martha is serving again, yet Jesus doesn’t correct her this time. Here, Martha serves from a place of strength and peace instead of a place of striving and stress.
What drew you to write a book about the story of Mary and Martha? What’s unique about your interpretation of this story?
Katie Reid: If Martha had a fan club, I’d be president of it. I so relate to Martha and her ultra-responsible ways. For years, this passage in Luke 10 bothered me. If nobody works, nobody eats, right? I really wanted Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her sister out. But upon closer examination, I realized how much Jesus loved Martha and wanted her to know that too. He wasn’t asking her to neglect her responsibilities but to trust him to care for her.
Made Like Martha is written for those who love checking things off their to-do lists and who may feel some angst when they read this account in Luke. It’s written from the perspective of a doer for other doers (although Mary-types are enjoying it too; it’s helping them understand their Martha-friends better).
You write in your book that many of us assume God is mad at us or disappointed in us. Why do you think that is? How have you found healing in your life from that assumption?
Katie Reid: When you view the world through the lens of perfectionism, you often feel frustrated with yourself and others (and even God) for things not turning out like you want (or expect) them to. For almost 40 years I felt like God was mad or disappointed in me. I was expecting myself to be flawless, which is completely unrealistic. It was a losing battle.
But, God knew, because of our sin, that we could not attain perfection apart from his supernatural intervention. So God sent his unblemished and only Son to die for our sins (past, present, and future) and rise again. If we choose to believe in Jesus as Savior and confess him as Lord, we are made clean; perfected, because of what Christ did on our behalf.
For me, the healing came when I realized that Jesus satisfied God’s wrath for sin and that his love for me was not based on whether I succeeded or failed.
If we’re in Christ, our position in his heart is secure. He loves us—even when we’re short-fused, whether or not we have a quiet time, even in the midst of tackling our to-do lists.
You make a fascinating comparison between Satan’s twisting of God’s words to Eve in Genesis and our interpretation of Jesus’s words to Martha.
Katie Reid: This was one of the most exciting revelations God gave me during the book writing process. The blinders came off and I could see how we’ve been allowing Satan to discount our design by adding to what Jesus said to Martha, in Luke 10.
Jesus did not say that there was something wrong with being made like Martha. And he never asked Martha to be Mary.
Jesus pointed out one thing that Martha needed to work on but he wasn’t criticizing the totality of who she was. We don’t have to apologize for being doers because we’re designed that way, on purpose. Let’s stop buying into the lie that correction equals rejection.
Good works should be our response to his love but they aren’t a means to obtain (or keep) his love. His love for us has been proven and settled once and for all, on the cross.
I can’t wait to see modern Marthas freed to be the women he’s designed them to be; fearfully and wonderfully made.
How can this new understanding of Mary and Martha keep us from judging others or ourselves?
Katie Reid: This new understanding helps usher in grace for others and ourselves. I love my Martha friends and my Mary friends. The world needs both types. But our behavior is not what makes us more or less pleasing to the Lord. When I realized God created me to be a doer, I felt more comfortable in my own skin and temperament. It also produced more understanding for others.
My Martha friends are my go-to gals for getting things done, and my Mary friends help me slow down and rest so I don’t burn out. Both are necessary—they’re not inferior or superior to one another. We bring different perspectives to the table. We’re stronger and better together.
How can we think of Jesus’s words to Martha as an invitation rather than as a criticism?
Katie Reid: I think this goes back to what we believe about Jesus. He wasn’t out there pummeling people with judgment on earth (although he had every right to do that); he led with kindness and compassion without compromising the truth. He didn’t mince words with Martha, but he demonstrated care and concern by inviting her to choose what was better, as Mary had. Again, he wasn’t saying that Mary was better than her; simply that she had chosen what was better in this instance.
Jesus was inviting Martha to exchange her striving for settledness, because that was good for her. He wasn’t asking her to become someone else or someone more, but to remember who he was and who she was in light of him.
On a practical level, how can we sit at Jesus’s feet even as we go about our busy days and fulfill our God-given call to accomplish things? In other words, what does it look like to rest even as we get things done?
Katie Reid: When you’re convinced that you’re a beloved daughter of a good and caring Father, a security and calmness fills your heart. This isn’t something you muster up, but something we ask God to help us grasp.
There’s value in having down time and quiet time, but many of us don’t know how to experience a sense of calm in the midst of our chaotic lives. I believe our soul can be at rest even when our hands are busy, as we remember that Jesus is not a guest to impress, but family to enjoy. He resides within us; he doesn’t leave when our quiet time ends.
You write about receiving God’s grace in the middle of the messes. What do you mean by that? How do our Martha personalities make us resistant to messes?
Katie Reid: The story of the prodigal son is a great example of God meeting us in the middle of our mess. The prodigal’s father had every right to reprimand his son for making bad choices. Yet, he patiently waited for his return and threw a big party when he came home. The son deserved punishment, yet his father clothed him with grace instead. And the same is true of our Heavenly Father.
I experienced something similar when I asked God to help me get well in the midst of a season of workaholism. He met me in my mess and provided a gift instead of punishment. He didn’t keep me at arm’s length but wrapped me up close; providing a fresh start and new life.
Marthas often crave order and find themselves frustrated when things aren’t going according to plan. But Jesus is the only one who can bring true peace even in the midst of our mess. When we realize that perfection isn’t up to us, it’s in us—and his name is Jesus—we begin to see that even in the mess, we’re not alone.
What do you mean by “stop striving for what is already yours”?
Katie Reid: Many of us are trying to earn God’s approval and favor, but as I mentioned before, we already have that if we’re in Christ. I spent so much time and energy trying to prove I was worthy of God’s love. But when we realize we don’t have to strive for what’s already ours, we walk taller and freer, knowing that our worth is not dependent on our productivity but cemented in Christ.
My brother is a few years younger than me; he has Down Syndrome. His worth is not based on how productive he is, nor is mine. We have worth because God says so, and it’s not based on how many items we check off our list. Now, our to-do list has value but it doesn’t determine our value. We could never do enough to achieve our salvation. We’re saved by grace and not works.
You contrast a “hired help mentality” with a “beloved daughter” way of thinking. What’s the difference? How do we live out that difference?
Katie Reid: A hired help mentality is one that thinks it’s all up to you to take care of yourself, like your worth is based on what you do and you might lose what you have if you aren’t good enough.
A beloved daughter’s mentality is based in trust; knowing that love isn’t based on what you do but based on who you belong to. A beloved daughter knows she’s adored even when she messes up.
1 Peter 5:7 in The Message reads, “Live carefree before God because he is most careful with you.”
Some of us have taken on things that were never ours to manage. In our ultra-responsible mindset we’ve placed extra weight upon ourselves, bogging us down with worry and exhaustion. As God teaches us how to live like a daughter instead of a slave, we begin to cast off the heavy weight we’ve been carrying and place it upon his most capable shoulders.
God has works prepared for us to do—but our position in him isn’t dependent on our behavior or performance. Isn’t that such good news?!
The idea of keeping things balanced can feel like an uphill climb for busy women. How do you personally maintain balance as a working woman?
Katie Reid: When I hear the word “balance” it makes me think of my one and only gymnastics meet, where I fell off the beam multiple times and was totally embarrassed. I tried to perform perfectly and toppled under the pressure.
The same can happen to us, if we’re approaching balance as something we need to perfect. I prefer to use the word stewardship. I can’t do it all, but I can do the next thing well. It’s impossible to give equal attention to everything on my plate, but I can ask God to help me see who and what needs my attention at present. When I think of all there is to do it’s overwhelming, but when I focus on what’s next, it seems more doable.
We’re humans, not machines, and we will not always get it right. When we receive God’s grace and extend it to others, we learn to work from a place of peace instead of striving, knowing that it’s not all up to us to keep the world intact.
As a modern Martha who has five children, what advice do you have for navigating your to-do list when it comes to parenting?
Katie Reid: When I got married I typed up a 9-page wedding agenda, so everything would run smoothly, but five children later, my to-do list and directives are shorter—they have to be for our sanity. With each child, I’ve chilled out more (although I’m still a get-it-done gal). When you realize how much is out of your control, you either fight for it (and drive yourself and everyone else crazy) or you learn to go with the flow better.
We’re a work in process for sure, but there are several things that help us stay afloat (but mostly Jesus). We’re busy, but we try not to have each child do more than one or two extra-curricular activities during a season. We want them to try new things, but not wear themselves out either. We also try to protect one day each week (usually Sundays) where we don’t do much after church but nap, hang out, read books, and play outside. This down-time helps us recharge for the rest of the week.
We also believe in the power of delegation. Our family is a team: we each do our part to keep things keep moving. When one member is really busy, we try to lighten that person’s load so they’re freed to focus on what they need to get done.
I think it’s important for busy moms to focus on what they’ve accomplished, instead of all there is left to do. There will always be more to get done, but as we celebrate what we and our children have completed it helps foster gratitude instead of stress.
Bio: Katie Reid is a firstborn overachiever and a modern-day Martha. As an avid blogger at katiemreid.com, Katie provides posts, articles, letters, and other resources for try-hard women on an ongoing basis. She encourages others to unwind in God’s Presence—through her writing, as well as through her speaking—as they find grace in the unraveling life. Katie has published articles with Huffington Post, Focus on the Family, iBelieve, Crosswalk, MOPS, (in)courage, God-sized Dreams, Purposeful Faith, Inspiring Families, and many other websites. She is also a contributing writer for iBelieve.com and Lightworkers.com and has been syndicated on ForEveryMom.com. Katie is a devoted wife of a youth pastor and a homeschooling mother of five children, who resides in the middle of Michigan.
Get biblically wise and spiritually fit. Become a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now!