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Monday, November 26, 2007

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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Blogger Carol said...

A most excellent and timely lesson! As Christmas approaches, we have another opportunity to try to get it right.

Thanks, Linda!

November 26, 2007 at 7:05 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

I also think our girls need to see that Mom is not perfect. When they grow up, they won't be so pressured to do things just as well as Mom did.
You are so right about the attitude. Imagine how many "perfect" meals were served last week without the warmth and friendliness I am sure your guests felt. :>)

November 26, 2007 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Heth said...

I love this post so much.

A fellow Martha sympathizer.

November 26, 2007 at 10:18 AM  
Blogger Darnelle said...

What a eye opener for us all - and perfectly timed! I remember some months ago, when I first saw the book, "Sacred Marriage". I was blown away for days simply by the sub-title: "What if God designed marriage to make us holy instead of to make us happy?" It changed me - before I even read the book, the sub-title brought me to my knees. I hope I never forget that. But I actually never applied that concept to other areas of my life. . . like family pressures, holiday craziness, and surprises of any kind. Of course He intends for it ALL to stretch us so that we depend more desperately on Him and become just a little more like Jesus with every incident. Thank you for reminding me that all of "life" is meant to make us holy . . . as He is holy. Every Monday morning should start this way! Thank you.

November 26, 2007 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

I really enjoyed this post, thank you.

November 26, 2007 at 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Lynn said...

2. Serve with a joyful heart and smile. You can always implode after everyone’s gone!

You always make me smile. I related to number two especially.

November 26, 2007 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger lori said...

I too am a Martha in refinement and I sympathize with her because I see MYSELF in her...
your "why do they keep coming back, they have to...they are family." cracked me up...
I am learning...40 years of undoing...whew...think of where I'll be when I am steps:)
Martha just wanted it all to "be nice..." and I do, I will try and sit down at the feet of Jesus...I might be hanging on to that vaccum, but I'm trying here, I really am:)

LOVED this post...obviously YOU spoke to me!!
peace Linda,

November 26, 2007 at 4:47 PM  
Blogger Laurel Wreath said...

OH Linda I loved this post and can see myself to well here. Oh goodness to well. Thanks for the timely reminder, I never want my guests to feel like a burden, they are a blessings.

Thanks my friend.

November 26, 2007 at 6:13 PM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

"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”

Oh. Now that's good. :)

Loved this post...


November 26, 2007 at 9:56 PM  
Blogger Heather@Mommymonk said...

Please forgive me for laughing heartily at your holiday foibles. As I laughed, I wondered why it is that in the midst of such disasters I find it difficult to see the humor? Because sometimes laughing at juice spilled everywhere is the best way to keep perspective. It is a "holy day" after all - so beautifully put Linda! Thanks!

November 27, 2007 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Chris @ Come to the Table said...

This is an excellent post! and as everyone else has already stated, "so timely".

I love the thought that the "holidays should make us more holy than to make us happy" Wow, if I would take that with me in everything I do as we celebrate.

Thank you!

November 27, 2007 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Vicki said...

Wow, I think we ladies can all relate to what you've shared here. Great post! To me, holidays are just another way to keep me focused on Him, or else I'd pop like a rubberband (and have before!).

Thanks for this. I enjoyed it.


November 27, 2007 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Wendell said...

A great post, thankyou.

November 27, 2007 at 7:04 PM  
Blogger . . . Dallas Meow . . . . >^^< . . . said...

I often refer to goofus and gallant when behavior gets out of control here - kids don't get it.
Wonderful post.
thank you

November 29, 2007 at 6:38 AM  

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It is good to hear from you... thank you so very much for leaving a note on the table. That makes us smile!

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