A Reluctant Martha
Everyone seems to view Mary and Martha of Luke 10 as a biblical “Goofus and Gallant.” (Remember the illustrated manners-teaching brothers of Highlights Magazine?) Recap: Martha frets over the details of preparing a large meal for Jesus and his disciples (including the sisters, that's at least 15 people total, maybe more) while Mary chooses to spend time with Jesus, who commends Mary for focusing on relationship rather than tasks and details.
I always feel sympathetic toward Martha. Perhaps she, too, would have liked to sit at Jesus’ feet but felt pressured to be a biblical Martha Stewart. I’m not losing sight of Jesus’ point; I’m just saying I feel Martha’s stress. After all, Jesus wasn’t performing any food miracles that day. Although I’d much rather learn at Jesus’ feet than baste a turkey, sometimes you have to bring on your best Martha. It’s simply your turn.
Pressure! Like many of you, I have just come off a long weekend of cooking and cleaning and a Martha-esque existence that Luke reported as “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”
In Mark 6:31, Jesus encouraged his tired disciples to “come ye yourselves apart and rest a while.” I did indeed almost come apart this week, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind. Consider the following "distracting details" which contributed to my anxiety. Somehow I managed to:
• Leave my emergency back-up roast in the carousel of bags at the end of the checkout line and not realize it until I got home.
• Break my vacuum just before guests arrived.
• Spill a gallon of apple cider down the front of me and onto the refrigerator shelves and the newly mopped floor.
• Blow candle wax all over a brand new table cloth and onto the wall behind the table.
• For the second year in a row, bake a ham that didn’t come out completely warm in the center and was thus hastily shoved into the microwave without anyone knowing.
• Dump half of my drained boiled potatoes into my sink while the family waited for dinner. (Someone tell me why these people keep coming back year after year. Wait a minute—I know why. They have to. They’re family.)
As you can see, I’m probably never going to do this big holiday meal thing perfectly. But I want the holidays to be all warm and rosy and glowing for my family or anyone who visits. Anything less feels like failure.
But that’s not the truth. What’s worse than bad food and disorganization and frantic behavior? Allowing the pressure to tempt me to snap at my kids or husband. Guests feeling more like a burden than a blessing. Failing to rely on the joy of the Lord to be my strength when things go wrong.
I fail if I do not love extravagantly, not entertain extravagantly. Cold hams don’t really ruin a holiday, but a cold, stressed-out hostess can.
So what’s a reluctant Martha like me to do?
1. Focus on others, not on personal inadequacies or past failures.
2. Serve with a joyful heart and smile. You can always implode after everyone’s gone!
3. Remind yourself to be grateful for having the means to host a meal and a body strong enough to do so.
4. Remember that sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself by stepping away from activities and roles you’re comfortable in and forcing yourself to do things that don’t come naturally. It’s like spiritual, mental and emotional calisthenics, and it increases your appreciation for others’ sacrifices and giftings.
5. Remind yourself that you’re making memories, not works of art.
6. Remember that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Maybe you have more tips to add here.
We are not called to be perfect but we are called to be obedient, loving and thankful. Gary L. Thomas wrote a book called, “Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy.” I have also decided to apply that supposition to holidays: What if God designed holidays to make us more holy than to make us happy” (hence: holy days). That puts the focus back on the Reason for the holidays, which changes the perspective of this reluctant, bumbling Martha!
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