Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Martha in All of Us

Luke 10:38-42Amplified Bible (AMP)
38 Now while they were on their way, it occurred that Jesus entered a certain village, and a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house.
39 And she had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His teaching.
40 But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]!
41 But the Lord replied to her by saying, Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things;
42 There is need of only one or but [a]a few things. Mary has chosen the good portion [[b]that which is to her advantage], which shall not be taken away from her.
A few notes of history for those that have never heard this before. There's hospitality. Then there's Jewish hospitality. When we think of "having people over" in the South, we think barbecues, huge lunches (usually potlucks) or brunches where the spread is aimed to be the spitting image of Southern Living magazine. We feed you here. We'll feed you so damn full that you're blood sugar needs its own zip code.

Jewish hospitality is far different. There were impromptu gatherings all the time; not giant, planned
ordeals. Unless it was a wedding or something enormous, all that was really expected was a giant bowl of something hot: a stew, usually. And loaves of bread. You'd put the soup in the middle of the table, pass out a ton of bread, et voila!

So, the fact that Martha was "overly occupied and too busy" says that she was making this far too complicated, and far too much about her.

I love Jesus' responses to all of this. He didn't ask for a thing. In fact, most men wouldn't notice what they were even eating. Even in his divinity, Jesus was still thinking like a man. A father. The kids'll be fine. We'll live. Let's do what's important. We can eat later. If people are really starving, let them go to their homes, eat, and come back.

But not Martha. Martha had the quiche, the rolls, the sandwiches, the biscuits and jam, the cinnamon rolls, the little weenies in bbq sauce... Ok, probably not. But whatever the Jewish equivalent was. And it wasn't necessary.

But Martha has an attitude. An attitude that so many of us have, men and women both. "Tell her to help me!" I'm doing this all on my own, and it's your fault. You should have helped. You should have done more. I'm the one doing all of this, and I'm a hero and a victim of your selfishness...

This wasn't an one-time instance with Martha and Mary. One chapter into their story, and their brother Lazarus fell ill and died. Jesus again pays them a visit, even in his own grief that his friend died, he ministers to the sisters whom obviously were in great distress. Martha again runs to Jesus - not in a act of sorrow, but of anger.
 John 11:12  Martha then said to Jesus, Master, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
It's your fault. You weren't helping me. Now see what a victim I am? Aren't I courageous for knowing this? You should have done more. Now I get to be important.
 Again, I love Jesus' response and Martha's dialogue.
39 Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, exclaimed, But Lord, by this time he [is decaying and] throws off an offensive odor, for he has been dead four days!
This is how I imagine this conversation:

I'm going to fix it.  
It's too late now, jerk! What do you think can happen now? I told you to start helping, and you didn't. NOW look at what you've done.
 If I were Jesus I'd have made Lazarus raise from the dead, then go over and slap her. But we do the same thing to ourselves. We blame and hold ourselves to the Pinterest level of perfection, stress ourselves out, overwork ourselves, and then get angry when others don't appreciate our stress level.

In reality, Martha's heart is broken. She could have easily run to Jesus, embraced him like the friend he was, and cried her eyes out all day. Jesus wasn't in a hurry. He went to the house to see Mary. He went to them, just for comforting them. Mary just leaned her head on Jesus; silent. That stunned silence that seems to follow us when someone close to us dies. Jesus was able to speak comfort to Mary, because she was willing to listen instead of blaming. Same as before.

Most of the time, for most of us, we're doing too much. We're stressed, broke, hopeless, and busy. And somehow, someone is supposed to be helping us. When that imaginary person doesn't show up, it's their fault. We somehow want to play victim and hero in the same play. I love what Joyce Meyer says, "You can be pitiful; You can be powerful. But you can't be both at the same time."

So many of us, me included, get caught up in the Proverbs 31 woman. She can do it all. She doesn't need sleep; she's beautifully independent and nurturing, yet provides for herself and her husband is in awe of who she is. What it doesn't say in that chapter: that her house is spotless, her cooking looks like it's from a 5-star restaurant, or that she and her husband never get into a spat over whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher. We read into that: We held her to this impossible standard because then we can say, because she has done all of that, there's no conflict in her home. We read that her husband appreciates her, and her kids are well-behaved and assume that there is an element of perfection there; that's nowhere in the scripture. Perfection only exists in Christ. Everyone else is selling something.

I'm betting even the Prov 31 woman had sticky floors. What it does say is her kids are happy; her husband is satisfied, and their bellies are full.

We have to stop. We have to stop playing Martha and blaming everyone for why we're stressed. WE are why we are stressed. Have a cup of something wonderful today, and rest. Even for 5 minutes. Just maybe then, our Martha hearts can rest with our heads on Jesus, instead of fussing about dinner.