As a family we’ve been reading the Chronicles of Narnia. This week we came across a theme we’ve come across before. It’s a message with a lesson we could all use. At different points in different books of the series, we find Aslan (the Great Lion, who represents Christ) in a conversation with one of the children in the story. In each of these particular conversations, a certain child will ask Aslan something about one of the other children in the story. Every time that happens, Aslan’s response is the same:
“Child, I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”
Now that we’ve come across this theme for the third or fourth time, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it means for me. In my pondering, I’ve been reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in the New Testament. Jesus has come to their village and entered into Martha’s home, where she is busy (likely preparing a meal), while her sister, Mary, is sitting at his feet, hearing His word.
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 unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:40-42)
I’ll admit that I’ve always wondered if I’d be Martha in this story, striking a guilty chord in my heart. But, there’s a new meaning to this exchange that jumped out. I’ve always assumed that Jesus was scolding Martha for her busy-ness. But, it seems to me now that perhaps he was correcting her for worrying herself with what Mary was choosing to do. He doesn’t seem bothered by Martha’s choice to be busy serving, until she became judgmental toward Mary and Mary’s choice to sit and listen.
In other words, Martha was asking him about Mary’s story and his response was, in effect, “don’t worry about Mary. Worry about Martha.” Or in Aslan’s words: “I tell no one any story but her own.”
This past weekend was the Women’s March, followed by a whole range of various opinions and conversations surrounding it. From those who marched, I heard descriptions like “empowering” and “life-changing.” From those who didn’t march, I heard expressions of embarrassment, confusion, and shaming toward those who marched.
And, in the middle of the debate, we risk missing an important lesson from the Women’s March (and any other topic that has the power to be divisive and contentious), which is this:
We all have different stories and if we spent more time focusing on understanding and writing our own stories, surely we’d have more respect and kindness toward others and their stories. Make no mistake, where we stand and the choices we make do matter. But, I’m convinced that what will matter even more is how we treat those people who have different stories from our own.
Let Martha worry about Martha, and Mary worry about Mary. And, maybe in the end, Martha and Mary will actually value and appreciate how their stories and lives are diverse and complementary. The whole story depends on each individual story being told, which depends on each of us to courageously own our own story, and let others own theirs.
Mary and Martha need each other and we need both. And, in the end, Aslan will turn out to be right about where to direct our focus.