The Gift of Presence

I am a Martha.

Martha was the one “cumbered about much serving.”1 I imagine her running in circles trying to ensure everything was done, that it was all just right. She was busy being busy. And it’s hard for me to fault her. She had a houseful, including the Savior – maybe she wanted to be sure that the house was clean, that there was a snack ready, that the bathroom really did have toilet paper. She saw her role as “taking care of everything.”

But Martha’s sister Mary, on the other hand, forgot the work and sat at the Savior’s feet. Luke 10:9 tells us that in the case of Mary, “she heard his word.”

Martha was missing it. And as I imagine Martha, and consider myself – I would guess that she hadn’t even realized it.

Feeling overwhelmed and probably a little alone and left out, Martha goes to the Lord. As I read the words, I feel the hints of my own personal frustrations that I’ve felt over the years when my pile was too high, and the struggle felt too big. She says, “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.”1

It’s interesting to note that at Martha’s rushed pace and with her many stressors it had become difficult for her to “feel like rejoicing.”2 Yet, she had the Savior in her very home!

But don’t we do the same? I do! How often have I allowed myself to miss precious moments because I needed to get “one more thing done”? Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that this is precisely when it is “a good time to refocus on what matters most.”2

And so, Jesus answered with the tender encouragement of a Friend giving permission to let go of perfection, saying, “Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part.”1


I imagine Him then beckoning her to let go of her to-do list, her desire to have it all just right, and instead, to come and rest at His feet.

The most profound lesson in this story for me is that Mary heard His word and Martha almost missed it. How many sweet moments with my kids have I missed because I just needed to get one more thing done? How many meaningful conversations with my husband went unsaid because I didn’t have time to chat while he drove to an appointment? How many opportunities to lift someone else’s burdens have remained on their shoulders because I didn’t look up from my own to-do list to notice?

I am learning that presence is a gift, and it can only be shared through deliberate choice. With all the distractions that surround us, and knowing that the pace in which it bombards us will only increase, I’m realizing more and more that cultivating presence must be a daily, and maybe even a moment-by-moment, effort.

Because in the end, “Love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time.”2

Leah Stimmel


1: Luke 10:38-42
2: Of Things that Matter Most. Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Painting is by the incredible Minerva Teichert. I love how in her portrayal, even as Martha works, her head is bent down in the direction of the Savior. It’s such a sweet reminder to all the Marthas of the world, that our imperfect efforts are not missed by Him.