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Columnists

What a to-do

Sarah Dean

At my first ever job interview the panel asked me to explain my approach to a large workload and conflicting deadlines. Fresh out of university I declared 'I am the Queen of To Do lists' and proceeded to show off about how 'I was unafraid to embrace technology to solve every day problems and manage my workload' by which I meant my To Do list was a Word document not a piece of paper. They were obviously impressed with the techsavvy, modern go-getter they had before them and I got the job. When I arrived on my first day I discovered there were only two computers between eight of us, so this To Do List Monarch had to revert to pencil and paper.

The downside of being a planner and an organiser is that I sometimes find it difficult to 'just be' at events, even ones I am not involved in planning. Such is my compulsion to do that I reckon if I'm there at the Second Coming as we all stand in wonder and awe at the Lord returned, I will be the one thinking 'I wonder if anyone has turned the urn on?'

The Bible character I most identify with is Martha (as in 'Mary and..') If Jesus came round ours I'd do exactly the same as my girl M: I'd go into hosting overdrive. While everyone else would be in the lounge listening to God's son, I would be manically getting out the best china, popping out for milk, and defrosting a casserole in case 12 disciples plus the Lord decided to stay for tea. And exactly like Martha I'd be building up a head of steam and resentment towards my bloody sister for not helping at all. 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'

I've always read Jesus' response to these words from Martha as a criticism: 'You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'

Sympathising with Martha as I do, it seems a bit harsh and unfair. She's doing her best to host all these people who have descended on the house. She wasn't being mardy or a martyr, she's just built that way. Plus anyone who has ever had a sibling can imagine that at this moment Mary might be giving Martha a smug look over Jesus' shoulder.

Then recently I read this story in the King James version. To be honest I was using a Bible app and accidentally clicked on this translation. (Still unafraid to embrace technology, that's me!) The old fashioned language distanced me from the situation and enabled me to notice a subtle difference: 'And (Martha) had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.' (Luke 10: 39 KJV) The keyword is 'also'. 'Also' implies that Martha sat at Jesus' feet and listened with Mary. She was distracted, but she was trying to be there, to listen and not just do.

When Jesus speaks to Martha he is showing concern for her not chiding her. He wants to let her off the hook and ignore the distractions. He sees that she doesn't need her sister to help her, she needs permission to stop doing and just be.

My current To Do list: 1) Read Bible. 2) Read Bible again- different translation. 3) Just be. 4) Preheat urn (just in case).