The Balanced Life is a Lie – The Extreme Secret Mary Knew and You Can Learn

I was a weird little kid by any account. I was bookish and chubby but that’s not what made me weird. The exponential factor for my weirdness was a direct result of my early passion for Jesus.

By second grade, the Bible was my favorite book to carry around and read and what was worse was that I believed what I read.

You have to admire the special brand of grace extended to me by the adults at Hope Valley Baptist. They tolerated a ten-year-old wondering aloud if bake sales were Biblical or if it was wrong to serve doughnuts and coffee after a presentation on the famine in Ethiopia.

I distinctly remember one of my elementary school teachers asking me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I told her confidently that I planned to be a missionary.

She chuckled, patted me on the head and then said something I never forgot, “When you grow up, you’ll realize that religion is useful but that no one appreciates a fanatic, dear. Someday you’ll put Jesus into proper perspective.”

That memory came flooding back to me this week when a woman told me about a sermon she heard Sunday that “finally sided with Martha.”

She said her pastor had told the story about Martha, bustling around her home preparing meals for her guests but becoming frustrated that her sister, Mary, was not helping. Mary was sitting and listening to Jesus. When Martha asked Jesus to correct Mary, Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing and he wouldn’t take it from her.

According to my friend’s pastor, though, REALLY, we need Martha. So EVEN THOUGH Jesus said that Mary chose the best thing, we KNOW that life is all about balance so we need to give Martha some credit, too.

See, that’s not Biblical.

Jesus said Mary had it right.

Jesus didn’t ever talk about balance. Jesus was extreme. He said things like “Don’t worry about tomorrow.” And “He who loves His life will lose it.” And “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him your left.” There was no mention of balance there.

Jesus calls us to follow Him. That means giving Him the controls of our lives. Most of us want some kind of deal like a student driver car where Jesus is at the wheel but we still have a set of brakes on our side.

We want to hear what Jesus says but if we stop bustling around in the kitchen, people will think we’re fanatics, like Mary, and we don’t want that.

What we want is balance – the ultimate and elusive goal of modern American culture. We want to follow Jesus but we also want balance with a capitol B. We want to follow Jesus but we don’t want to be weird or fanatics or boat-tippers or trouble-makers or apple-cart up setters or . . . well, you know.

In college, I dated a guy who rode a motorcycle. I’m not a good passenger in a car so you can imagine me on the back of a motorcycle – it’s not a pretty picture.

But I do remember, after our first ride, him explaining that if he leaned one way, I had to fight my natural inclination to lean in the opposite direction. What I thought would maintain our balance, actually worked against what he was doing and would more likely cause us to spin out than if I went with his lead and leaned with him, not against him.


People were always trying to keep Jesus in balance but He’s extreme. Some people walked away because He was so extreme. Others learned to let everything else go and lean with Him in the ride of their lives.

We need to stop bustling around in the kitchens of our lives and sit listening to Him even though bustling feels like what we should be doing and sitting feels like it will result in disastrous life imbalance. Balance isn’t the thing we need, Jesus is. Bustling isn’t the thing we need, Jesus is.

Jesus is extreme. He’ll throw your life out of balance with a single command but that’s all right. See, maintaining balance doesn’t keep your life from crashing, Jesus does.

That teacher was right. I did learn that no one appreciates fanatics but that’s OK. You see, I also have Jesus in proper perspective so I know what does matter – and it’s not what people think.

Are you ready for extreme faith? Are you ready for a life out of balance? Are you ready to hop on the back of His bike and lean with Him, not against Him?

Come on, Martha, get out of the kitchen. Feel the Wind in your hair. Take a ride with Jesus and know what Mary knows – what it’s like to really live.

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    The Conversation

  1. Heather says:

    Wow, Lori! That picture of the motorcycle will stay with me forever. Jesus is my motorcycle driver, NOT my copilot! I was one of those “weird” kids (who didn’t outgrow being a fanatic, though it gets harder to fight “balance” when you have all these adult life responsibilities)- you are not alone!

  2. Happy to hear I’m not alone, Heather! I need to keep the motorcycle image in my mind, too. I hate giving over control of anything and He’s the only one it makes sense to yield control to but it’s a daily challenge not to pull against His lean.

  3. Lynn says:

    Lori – I also love the motorcycle analogy. And as someone with severe Martha tendencies, I needed this reminder today. Thank you!

  4. We are on the same wavelength, Lori! I’m blogging about Mary this week, too. Help me Jesus, I’m a Mary in a Martha world! 😉

  5. Jackie says:

    Lori, I love how you just “put it out there” and you don’t sugar coat it. Like so many times before I feel like you wrote that just for me. Thanks again.


  6. Thanks, Lynn. I think we all have a Mary/Martha conflict going on!

  7. Karen, I’ll have to check it out! God speaks the same message on every channel when He’s trying to get a message out!

  8. I did write it just for you, Jackie! 😉 It scares me every time you tell me I just “put it out there”. I’m not really trying to do that, I just write what comes up after praying, reading and thinking. Kind of scary to think I’m putting it out there without sugar! 🙂

  9. Loved it Lori! What a great word picture you describe with the motorcycle. Have a blessed day!

  10. Karen says:

    I am a fanatic at heart, but I think there are times when balance is needed. With my Christian friends, I can cut loose and be as fanatical as I want to be. They are already saved – no harm done if they think I’m a little Jesus freakish.

    With non-Christians, in this day and age, I feel like I have to be a little more analytical about how I respond. If a non-Christian friend is super sensitive to anything “religious”, my fanatical views may be overwhelming and scare them from anything Christian. So I have to start out more low-key and mildly suggestive with them.

    Others are impressionable, and I just know it’s okay to give it my all because I’m not going to scare them away. They’ll keep coming back for more. Whether it’s to debate or understand – either is good.

    So in my own personal views, I always lean with Jesus on that motorcycle, but when I reflect to the secular world, I feel like I have to find a fine balance to keep from being ignored altogether.