Today is the feast day of St. Martha. Most of us know her from the Bible story of Mary and Martha. Jesus came to visit and while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, Martha hurried around trying to make things perfect for her guest. When she asked Jesus to say something to her sister about the lack of help Mary was providing, Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42
This Bible story has always bothered me. You see, I am a Martha. I worry and stew over what needs to be done, what needs to be fixed, and what is lacking within our house. I grew up in a house that was always clean. Company could drop by without notice and my mother would not be embarrassed over the way our house looked. When things broke they were fixed immediately or replaced. There wasn’t dirty handprints on the windows, dust on the fans, milk spilled on the floor, toys everywhere, or something growing in the corner of the bathroom. No, our house was immaculate. I was raised that what people saw when they first walked in your door was how they would think of you forever. Given the fact that we have 13 people living in the space that is probably more suited for about 5 people, well, my house doesn’t resemble the house I grew up in at all.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand this story. Maybe it is my age. Maybe it’s the internet that allows me to get a glimpse into so many others’ houses to see that they live a lot like us. Or maybe it’s God working on my heart, but recently I have begun to not only feel but believe that all that stuff isn’t so important. Yes, it’s important that our houses are clean and that if company stops by they aren’t completely disgusted, but if the walls need to be painted or the kids have tracked mud up the steps once again, well, that’s ok. Those who are coming over are not coming to judge my house but to see us and spend time with us. I can’t tell you that I don’t worry at all, I do! But I can see how my reluctance to have people see our messes has cost us time with those who truly love us and want to spend time with us. That makes me sad.
I think the most important part of my recent change of heart is this- my house is not just a house. It is a home. It is filled with lots of little people who make big messes. It is filled with lots of big people who make messes. It is filled with toys, clothes, school books, pets, flowers picked fresh from the yard, muddy footprints leading up the steps, handprints on the walls, mirrors, windows, and everything else. But it is also filled with love and laughter. Joy overflows from every opening in our home. There is light. There is happiness. There is God living among us in my home. People come to see these things when they come over. They don’t notice the mud as much as they notice the laughter. They don’t see the toys like they see the happiness shining in our children’s eyes. They don’t care about the handprints on the windows when beautiful dandelions are sitting in the prettiest vase we have on top of the mantle. No, none of those things that upset me so much matter as much as the love that emanates in our home.
It is hard to shake the need to be a Martha. I think many of us are hardwired to take care of the needs of others and to want things to be perfect. But those of us who are Marthas need to take a lesson from the Marys of the world. They are the ones who don’t miss a second of what is truly important. They are living in the moment, absorbing all the sights and sounds of what is happening around them. They are making memories and cherishing them. They are living and loving to the fullest. Yes, we Marthas can learn a thing or two from Mary.
This week when one of my best friends comes to see us I plan to not worry so much about making sure everything is perfect. I will make things comfortable for her but I plan to enjoy her company and not worry about the walls that need to be painted or the couch that practically swallows visitors whole. I’m not going to obsess over the things that I know she doesn’t even care about and that she won’t even notice. No, those things will not be on my radar this visit. This time I plan to be in the moment and love my friend with all my being.
Happy Saint Martha’s day! I pray that all of my fellow Marthas will have a very beautiful day today. Take a day off and enjoy those around you. Take in every moment and make memories without worrying about what needs to be done. It’s what Christ would want you to do.