Mary, Martha, and All My Apologies
A couple weeks ago, I rocked quietly and hummed a bit as Bran fell asleep, but inside my head was a frenetic monologue on what we should eat that day and why: "that pork was on sale, so I need to cook it soon. I don't want it to be too much like the chicken we ate yesterday, though. And we already had potatoes, so I need to choose another starch. We have rice, I think. Yeah, rice'll work. K. So pork loin (that'll be good. I'm good at pork loin), rice, and a vegetable. Hmmm, it really needs a sauce, but that means I'll have to stand at the stove, and I won't be able to because Bran might need a nap right then." With the sauce thoughts simmering (buh-DUMP-CHHH), I pictured a scene. My kids, husband, and baby seated for dinner while I delivered plates to the table with me saying, "I'm sorry. There really should be a sauce."
As I plan for guests to arrive, I prepare apologies. "Are you guys ok with dogs? I'm sorry. We have one, but he'll stay outside. You can hang your coat here, if you'd like. I'm sorry. There should be more hooks."
Saying goodnight to my kids, I imply need for pardon. "I'm sorry I didn't play with you more today. I just needed to get the laundry done." "I wish we had been able to go to the park. I'm sorry that I didn't feel well."
So many completely ridiculous reasons to apologize! I invent ways for myself to fail and then run headlong into the trap. Guess how many people at that dinner table care if there is a sauce? ZERO. How many guests (worth having) will care about doubling up coats on a hook? ZERO. You get it. As I tell my kids, the first step in changing something is noticing that it needs to be changed. This post is me noticing. I would like to chill out a bit, to just relax and enjoy what is actually important. I know I'm not alone.
I recently solicited discussion topics, and one friend wrote that, were she to come over, we'd discuss: "how to be Mary when one's day to day life looks a lot more like Martha." Ah, yes. I love Jesus, but he freaks me out on a regular basis. Is there anyone he did not offend? Hard-working hostesses: CHECK. Let's review the story found only, I learned, in Luke 10:38-42.
...Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.
A note before I dive in: It gives me chills to think that the God I pray to to help me not tell lies about him and give good, true words here was the very man who reclined in that house, ate Martha's cooking, and taught while Mary listened. How humbling and amazing!
Martha welcomed Jesus. That's a great place to start. Maybe she did it for wrong, show-offy reasons; I have no idea, but it's undoubtedly good and God's grace to her and to us that Jesus was there to hit the nail on the head. I notice that Jesus' rebuke to Martha is directed at her request: "Tell her then to help me." He explains that "Mary has chosen the good portion [knowledge of and relationship with God], which will not be taken away from her." Knowing hearts, Jesus is saying that Mary made a right choice for a right reason. Jesus points out that Martha's harried service, her work-load that was too much for one woman, and, maybe most importantly, her indignation indicate that she was anxious and troubled. Well, ain't that the truth!? I wear indignation on a regular basis, and I honestly say that it is always tied to my insecurities.
That observation is the point at which my needless apologies connect to this vignette from the life of Martha and her blessed, embarrassing encounter with God. "I'm sorry," used without cause, reveals the ways I am failing and disappointing myself: my insecurities. Those distractions "of much serving" keep my mind from being free to enjoy so much good and grace available to me. If we have invited Jesus in, we are also free to enjoy his company. This scene gives me an awesome image of Christ to hold in my heart: He was there to be with them and to teach them, not to be impressed by their amazing service. Certainly, we are called to all manner of service, and we cannot avoid housework and parenting forever while we frolic in tulips or pour over Scripture. The thing I'm noticing is Jesus' focus on why each woman was doing what she what she did. Martha's service was coming from a place of insecurity.
The Crossway ESV Study Bible states that Luke's general goal in writing was to assure his readers "that the Gospel is for all." The eyewitness accounts he includes support his goal, including this story about Mary, a woman, being allowed to behave like a disciple by sitting at Jesus' feet. It is this Gospel that liberates us from our crippling insecurities.
I don't know exactly what it looks like to be Mary instead of Martha in my daily life. I think that I am a Martha. I can get stuff done, and people are usually here because I invited them! Those are good qualities, so what needs questioning are my motives. Am I trying to earn my place or prove my worth somehow by being perfect? Jesus doesn't seem to have been there to assess their worth, though maybe Martha feared that deeply. We don't need to fear his rejection anymore than she did. That "good portion," his teaching and love, will never be taken from us.
So, I'm starting with noticing. When I want to say "sorry," I'll ask "why?" If the answer is "my insecurity," I have an opportunity to turn to Jesus and just relax!