I have known both Mary & Martha all of my life. I have always thought of Martha as the poor, misunderstood, responsible sister of the lazy, irresponsible Mary. I always felt that I could relate to Martha, that I understood where she was coming from in doing all the necessary things one does when one offers hospitality. I “got” her irritation with Mary, who was just sitting there doing nothing. I felt the sting of Jesus’ words as if He’d spoken them to me when He gently chastised her and praised lazy Mary.
After spending a week with Mary, connecting with and understanding her like I never have before, my entire perception of her changed. And I mean completely and utterly changed. I wondered if I’d had it wrong all these years where Martha was concerned, as well, so I asked Martha for some one-on-one time and she graciously invited me to spend a week with her in Bethany.
I still share a lot of commonalities with Martha. I have a do-er personality. I have a keen sense of duty, of doing the “right” thing (even if it is too often accompanied with the wrong attitude). I get upset with others when they don’t do what I think they should. My sense of justice oftentimes leads me to ask the Lord to make things right when I feel I’ve been wronged by someone, to take my grievance directly to Him.
Against the newly painted backdrop of her sister, Martha’s shortcomings (and my own!) shine brighter than before. But like the saying goes, We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. (Can I get an “Amen!”?) And tucked amid all of the character flaws that we share, Martha displayed something that I feel shamefully lacking in my own life – a beautiful, teachable heart.
Listening to her testimony again, I realized that Martha didn’t repeat the same mistake twice. I want to have such a teachable heart! I want to receive His Words to me and have them “stick” like that. I want to respond to His chastening as quickly and wholeheartedly as Martha did. I want to be sensitive to His teaching. I want to be changed by obeying His Word. I want to share that positive character trait with Martha, as well.
If your heart desires the same, I invite you to visit Martha in Bethany this week. Click here to spend some one-on-one time with Martha of Bethany.
I was so little my daddy had to pull a chair up to the kitchen sink so I could stand on it, tippy-toed, to help wash the dishes. Actually, I’m pretty sure he had me rinsing dishes, as my untrained eye and the desire to rush through this chore almost surely would have resulted in not very clean dishes. Daddy was washing, I was rinsing.
Some of my earliest memories of family holidays are of my Daddy drawing my little brother and me to himself and telling us it was time to clean our Grandma’s kitchen. Not all that surprising was how resistant my brother and I were to this idea – downright resentful some times! But my dad, well, he always did it with a cheerful spirit, often whistling or humming a tune while cleaning up the holiday mess.
There are recurring moments that sprinkle through my childhood memories. Daddy washing up dishes at Grandma’s house. Daddy clearing people’s plates from the table at church functions so they could keep right on talking. Daddy staying until the lights were turned out and doors locked so he could help clean up after a party or event.
“Serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13
Over the past 2 1/2 years I’ve been on the receiving end of my dad’s selfless service. Throughout two tough pregnancies and having new little ones of my own, my dad has stepped in to serve me in ways I never knew I needed. During my pregnancies he’d call on his way home from work (he drives by my house to go to and from work) to see if I needed anything on his way by. Whether it was delivering pregnancy cravings or taking out a mostly empty trash bag because super pregnancy nose was in full swing, he did it. And when my husband is out of town he stops by to help give baths and tuck in tots. Although that may be a little self serving since his my two year old loves seeing his Papa, and the feeling is quite mutual.
My dad has the heart of a servant. He serves others and models Christ in a way that makes the Gospel come to life right before your eyes, bringing to life the Scriptural admonition to serve one another in love. Of course as a kid I thought washing dishes at Grandma’s house was some sort of unusual punishment or penance required for enjoying a bountiful Christmas morning. As I grew up though, I realized that inasmuch as Daddy was teaching us to do dishes with a cheerful spirit (confession: I still wrestle with that), the more valuable lesson he modeled for us was that of selflessly and joyfully serving others.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7