What if Mary hadn’t sat at the feet of Jesus, but had decided to toe the line instead? How about Rosa Parks, what if she had decided that the struggle was just too hard, and she could leave it to others to fight for civil rights? Or the women who became known as The Suffragettes had shuddered at the thought of all the disorder they might cause if they protested, and left the voting to the ones who knew what they were doing?
Where would we be if these people hadn’t seen there was more, not just for their own small lives–which may have seemed insignificant to them–but for those around them? What if they had felt the weight of ‘should’ and ‘should not’, so much so that they decided they would toe the line and go no further.
Was this a rebellion, a behaviour coming out of a rebellious spirit? Or was it behaviour that caused them to inwardly tremble too, as they did what they would not have chosen to, in their pursuit of the truly greater thing?
We have often perceived Mary sat at the feet of Jesus as a beautiful and tender act of devotion, and I’m not decrying a heart of devotion to Jesus, he is the Beautiful One, what I am saying is that we have mistaken Mary’s action as the simple act of a devoted woman who so loved her Lord that she was willing to risk misunderstanding and to forgo helping Martha prepare a meal for the other disciples. This isn’t the case. Mary was in an area of the house which was set apart for males only, for those who were there to learn from the Rabbi, to learn so as to teach others at the appropriate time. Much as Paul sat and studied at the feet of Gamaliel, this is what Mary was doing, and Mary was welcomed by Jesus, he said in her defence: “She has chosen the greater thing.”She was learning from Jesus, not solely to nourish her own heart and mind, but in order that she might pass on all that she had been taught. Much as Jesus later instructed all of his disciples to do: “Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to do all I have commanded you.”
What looks like rebellion, can, in truth, be a holy act, a set apart for God and others act. Do I desire rebellion? Good grief, no, but sometimes there needs to be a civil–holy–disobedience as the system confines its inhabitants to a too small world.
This world is big and glorious, but broken, and needs men and women both.
It needs them to pursue the hurt, the wandering, and the wondering; to chase after a better way of accomplishing tasks so as to lessen the damage done. To see the better way for wherever their heart’s dreams and hopes lie, to make the difference they yearn to make, that they are created to make.
Can I ask you to be brave and to do that thing you dream of as you sit with God? Please don’t confine your question to “What will they think if I do this?” but also ask yourself: “What will not happen if I don’t do this? What will be missing?”
You may be the one who makes a world of difference to one, and therefore a real and tangible difference to the world as a whole.
Know you are an image-bearer. Know your Creator thought of you, imagining all you would be capable of. He saw your trembling heart and hands, but also your delight at seeing his plans come to fruition. Dear one, please don’t toe a line unless it’s a line drawn by the one who made you to impact the world.
“We are made for transcendence and endless horizons but our small ego usually gets in the way until we become aware of its petty preoccupations and eventually seek a deeper truth. We must dig deep and yet seem reluctant, even afraid to do so.”
Richard Rohr: Immortal Diamond