...and no, I'm not referring to the Stewart variety ;)
A story that's been on my heart lately is the one of Mary & Martha. It's short, so I'll go ahead and include it here.
(( Luke 10:38-42 from the ESV))
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I have to admit that even though I've heard & read this passage many times...when reading this story for the first time with a "fresh" perspective, I was kind of frustrated at Jesus for not telling Mary to get off of her lazy-you-know-what and help her sister. Mostly, however, I was super convicted of my lack of understanding of Mary's actions.
Here's a little bit of back-story on how this story came to be on my heat and mind. On Tuesdays, we host Missional Community at our place. You might know this better as "small group, home group" and other titles of the like. You can read more about our Missional Communities here. Anywho, on this particular Tuesday, I wasn't feeling well, I was exhausted, spread too thin between work, keeping up with the house, trying to keep up with friends and family, maintaining a healthy marriage, planning & making meals, etc. Ya know...life. To put it quite frankly, I was cranky. I was ((unadmittedly at the time)) mad about lugging the vacuum upstairs. I was frustrated with how many dishes I had let pile up around the sink that I'd have to clean. I was equally grumpy that the dishwasher hadn't been run, so it was full of dirty dishes as well. I was bitter that no one had bothered to RSVP or sign up for things to bring, so I was going to either a. not have enough food or b. have to go back to the store to get the items no one had yet to volunteer to bring. Bottom line, I had made Missional Community that night about me. What I had to do to prepare for it, cook for it, clean for it, etc.
Chase came home from a day of meetings, sermon prep, and studying to a wife with a storm cloud over her head.
"Do you need any help?"
"Are you sure?"
"Okay, I'm going to go into the study and read for a bit."
What a gem of a wife I was in that moment, huh? Wanting help, but not taking it. Being too prideful to ask & accept it. Getting mad that he didn't just go ahead and take the trash out without me asking. Aren't husbands supposed to read minds?
I have a feeling this is what would have happened with sassy-at-the-moment Martha, had Mary even volunteered to help. Sarcastically saying, "Oh noooo, Mary. You just sit on your rear and listen to the Nice Man tell stories. I'll clean and sweep and cook and go to the well to get water for these hundreds of random people who are standing around & in our house. I've got this." All the while, fuming, and making this situation all about her, rather than just taking a second to sit with Jesus.
Anywho, back to my story. Chase sat me down after everyone left and gently called me out on how I was acting. Using examples of my grumpy cleaning rituals, taking dishes and cleaning them while people are chatting, catching up on each others' weeks, and sharing life with one another. "Humbly serving" on the outside. "Bitterly hosting" on the inside. He quite lovingly said, "I want you to think about how you *might* be living more like a Martha than a Mary."
He was right.
But this isn't the first time this Martha syndrome had taken over my heart. When The Well was just getting started, we hosted church at our home. Every Sunday morning, I was stressed about cleaning and more concerned with kids breaking my vintage vases rather than just loving them. Volcano candles had to be lit or else our home smelled like whatever incense our neighbor had lit. I was frustrated to have to clean up my studio so the kids had somewhere to go for "children's church" when I had orders lined up and organized and dresses half sewn. I felt like my home was taken over & disrespected when babies were put in pack-n-plays in our bedroom, OUR BEDROOM!, without my being asked. When the communion wine got spilled & stained our carpet, I was PISSED. And no way, I didn't want to make coffee for anyone or let people use my expensive Almond Joy creamer or Torani Syrups. What, you think we're made of money or something? Drink coffee before you come.
I am both humored by and disgusted that this was FOR REAL my heart. Thank the LORD for grace and
second & third fourth chances.
What a LOVELY pastor's wife you're becoming Kim! This is really your knack, isn't it? Gosh, hospitality and the gospel sure shine in your home. I can't wait to come over again next week!
Church became more about my frustrations than it was about community and the gospel. And our team called us out on it.
You're all right.
In BOTH situations, in my heart, I believed was serving. Bitterly, yes. But I was serving for crying out loud. The Bible has much to say about the appreciation of a servant's heart ((Mark 9:35, Colossians 3:23-24, Matthew 24:45-46)), so why wasn't my servant-hood being appreciated at ALL?
Um, because I was making it about me.
I had this disgusting anxiety of making my home look perfect and put-together. The meal for Missional Community had to be complete and smelling aromatic RIGHT at 6:30 and if the bathroom wasn't clean by 6? Cue panic and grumpy pants Kim.
Jon Bloom says it this way:
This kind of anxiety is very subtle. It has a selfish root, but its fruit looks deceptively like unselfishness. It's the desire for approval dressed up to look like the desire to serve. It's my caring what you think of me dressed up to look like my caring for you. It can be so subtle that we don't see it clearly. It looks so much like the right thing that we believe it is the right thing.
I'm still "chewing on" and thinking about what Jesus means by "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." in verse 42. All I know is that Martha's actions were disrespectful and petty enough for Jesus to see right through her & lovingly rebuke her when she childishly said "Jesussssss! Tell my sister to help meeeee." ((in my head that's how she said it, all whiny and such)). Mary chose the right thing by sitting with Him at His feet and listening intently. When was the last time I did that on a Tuesday when I was supposed to be cooking for 12 and cleaning?
Are you guilty of being a Martha? Join the club, but let's not meet weekly about it & stay in the club. ;) Let's, instead, pray daily for a heart that truly wants to be a joyful servant, not for selfish motives, but for the sake of the GOSPEL. To make people feel loved and welcomed, as Jesus did.