How many times through the years have I told my sons to focus—especially during math. I must have sounded like a broken record to them (that is if they actually knew what a record was).
The truth is, my boys aren’t the only ones who deal with focus issues. I hate to admit it, but I do too. I am so easily distractible!
We live in a nation full of distracted people it seems. Some blame this problem on technology, cell phones, and social media. That may be true to some extent, but this lack of focus isn’t a new problem. We find a familiar friend in the Bible with the exact same issue: Martha.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “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: 38-42 ESV)
What did Martha do right?
Poor Martha. When we read the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10, we often focus on what Martha did wrong and what Mary did right. But Martha really didn’t get it all wrong! As homeschooling moms we can learn a few things from her.
She begins by welcoming Jesus into her home and serving Him—a difficult task considering the lack of modern conveniences when it came to meal preparation. And yet it seems that serving Jesus is what she made her priority.
Do we think of homeschooling as an act of service to Him? We sometimes forget the verse that says,
In whatever you do, do your work heartily as for God rather than for men. (Colossians 3:23, emphasis added)
How would our attitudes change if we realized that our “work” is for Him? Whether homeschooling, cooking, or cleaning, it can be done for the Creator of the Universe. Doesn’t seem as mundane when you think of it that way—doing laundry as an act of worship!
Another thing I like about Martha is that when she gets upset, she talks to Jesus about it. How often do we get really honest in our prayer lives? Do we go to Him—even when we are messy or mad—and tell Him how we are feeling? Being honest with God forces us to be honest with ourselves. And that is the place where He can teach us.
But Martha did have a problem.
Where did Martha struggle?
She was distracted. Distracted means “to be over-busied, to wheel about; unable to concentrate because one’s mind is preoccupied”. Martha’s mind seemed to be preoccupied with both serving and comparing.
Related: How to Stay Connected to God Through Prayer
The Bible said Martha “was distracted with much serving”. In other words, Martha had a hard time focusing on her guest because all she could see was what needed to be done.
Do you ever feel like that in your homeschool? So many subjects to teach, places to get children to, housework and cooking—all of a sudden we realize we haven’t really been able to focus on our relationship with Christ, our husbands, or our children. We are with our children daily but fail to really see them and their needs. We find ourselves sacrificing our relationship with them in order to get things done.
We’ve lost our focus.
The Bible also tells us that Mary was sitting at Jesus’s feet, and when Martha notices she isn’t helping her, she points it out to Jesus (who obviously already knew exactly where Mary was!) But Martha throws that little zinger in there—“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” She questions the very character of Jesus.
I hate to admit it, but I’m pretty sure I would have reacted the same way. Actually I have acted the same way. I’ve thrown a fit like a three-year-old exclaiming to my husband “I teach them all day, all their subjects. I need to clean and plan and cook meals. I’m exhausted and I don’t want to do this anymore!’” But like Mary, he was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing. He worked a full-time job and helped around the house as much as he could. It just wasn’t always on my time table. And the truth is, I was selfish and self-focused. Yes it is absolutely ok and right to admit we need help and even ask for it, but how we admit that and ask for help is important.
There is another way comparisons can be distracting in our homeschools. When we compare ourselves, our kids, and our homeschools to others, we often make choices that we might not make otherwise. We see all the things others are doing and fear we aren’t doing enough so we sign up for another music lesson, co-op class, or sport. Or we worry that our students aren’t doing as well as others in some academic area so we begin adding “supplements” to their already full days. The problem with comparisons is that we end up making other people our standard instead of God.
Once again we’ve lost our focus.
Related: Dear Mom, You Don’t Have to Live a Social Media Worthy Life
Despite Martha’s less-than-perfect reaction, Jesus graciously responded, “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.”
Jesus didn’t reprimand Martha for serving, but reminded her of where her focus should be—the one thing that would not be taken away—sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His teaching. He didn’t scold her for looking at Mary or even for questioning His character. Jesus gave Martha an eternal vision instead of temporal one.
He wants that for us, too.
First we begin by making our relationship with God a priority. I know finding time for God isn’t easy with a house full of kids! However, we will never have the strength we need to serve our families if we haven’t gone to our source of strength. I like the way the Amplified Bible states it,
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.] Philippians 4:13
Here are some ways to keep your focus on Jesus throughout the day:
- Begin the day with prayer (even if you have to do it in the shower).
- Write verses on index cards and place them in areas you spend a lot of time in (the kitchen and laundry room come to mind!)
- Leave devotionals around the house where you will see them and pick them up at various points of the day.
- Pray and study His precious Word while your kids are doing their silent reading. If you have littles who don’t take naps, but aren’t reading yet, consider implementing “room time” where they do quiet activities like looking at books or listening to an audio story for a set time each day.
This will look different according to what season of life you are in, but whatever you have to do, find a way to spend some time with your heavenly Father! Get to know Him and His character, so that when things are difficult, or hectic, unlike Martha you can rest in knowing He does care.
Related: How to Stay Connected to God Through His Word
If you need a plan, you can download the FREE Scripture Writing & prayer journal: Who I Am in Christ: A Scripture Writing and Prayer Journal.
If we are focused on Him then we won’t be spending our time comparing ourselves to others. Instead of comparing:
- Recognize you do have many roles and responsibilities, but realize everything doesn’t have to be perfect. The cleaning can wait sometimes. Kids can have cereal for supper sometimes.
- Admit you need help in a way that respects your husband and all he does for your family. Work together to find creative solutions.
- Train you children to help around the home. This is a part of their homeschool education, because education is about training for real life.
- Pray before signing up for activities, events, and classes. Ask Him for wisdom to know how to teach your children in the way that is best for them.
Related: How Do I Homeschool? 4 Guiding Principles from Scripture
Focus on Him
If you wear glasses you understand what it is like to look at the world unfocused. Everything is blurry, colors aren’t as vibrant, edges undefined. We can easily stumble when our vision isn’t focused.
The same is true when we don’t have Jesus as our focus. With a focus on Jesus, we can clearly see what our priorities should be; without it we will stumble through our homeschooling days.
Sweet Mama, I know how busy you are with good and important things. But don’t neglect the most necessary thing. God wants us to sit at his feet and listen to His teaching, because He loves us. He created us and knows just what we need. He desires to be the source our our strength, and to lead our homeschools. Let’s take time to sit at His feet and hear.
May we focus on what matters the most.
Learn to focus on Him in prayer and Bible study with Growing Faith: Establishing Strong, Deep Roots.
Adapted from an article by the same title published in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Homeschooling Today Magazine.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
I never noticed that Jesus never reprimanded Martha for serving. I always hear people giving Martha a hard time, as if her hard work wasn’t valuable. I’m learning to be more of a Mary and rest in Christ, but I’m still an over-achiever for the Lord. God is pleased when we do service for Him.
Thank you Susan! Yes, it isn’t about what we do or don’t do, but where our heart is in it. I need to be reminded to focus on Him whatever I’m doing.
What a beautiful depiction of what our homeschooling can and should look like! I always feel so encouraged when I hear from others that remind me that putting my relationship with my kids ranks higher than any other “to-do” thing on my list of dailies. And because of it, our days are more organized, less chaotic, and peaceful! A peace that passes all understanding 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!
Thank you! I’ve always loved the story of Mary and Martha and it seems there is always a new way to apply it!
I would have loved to be there that day with Mary and Martha. And I am not sure if I would have had the attitude of Mary or Martha, but I know that I used to be Martha and as I age I become more like Mary. Time (and age) has a way of doing that to a person. If I could go back and do things over in my homeschool, it would be to rest in Jesus more.
Patty, I would have chosen to rest more too, especially in their first years. For a while I was chasing a “rigorous education.” Relationship is so much more important.
I love your interpretation of that passage for homeschooling moms. We wear a lot of hats, and they can get heavy at times. Thank you for the reminder of what is truly important. If we can just keep our focus on Him, everything else will fall into place.
A life-lesson for us all 🙂 As the bird are flying out of our nest, there is just as much need as ever to keep my eyes focused on Him. A different season, but a timeless truth, isn’t it? Thanks, Michelle!
I can relate to trying to get things done! It’s not usually an issue of comparison, but more of living up to my own high standards. But sometimes I get things done at the expense of building relationships with my kids and other people. Good reminder!
Really good point! You are right, sometimes it is our own high standards we strive to live up to. Thanks.
This is such a great article and so important to remember. We need to keep things in perspective and keep our focus on Jesus always. Homeschooling is very hard, and very self-sacrificial but it is His work. And it’s an honor and a blessing to be given the opportunity. Though often it doesn’t feel or look that way. We do need to stay focused! Thanks so much for sharing! A beautiful reminder!
Its true no matter what we are doing in life! Even though my kids have graduated I find it is easy to forget the most important thing!