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“What used to make us stumble, God can use to make us stand.
What once made us bow our heads in shame,
He can use for His glory.”
~ Joanna Weaver~
Having a Mary Spirit
 

As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Two sisters. Complete opposites.

One a Type A personality, obsessing over all the minor details related to having a house guest. Can’t you picture her in the kitchen getting all of the food ready, changing the perfectly matched linens and putting fresh flowers in the guest room, scrubbing the bathrooms and making sure there are plenty of lovely scented candles and clean towels?

The other sister sort of “lets it all hang out.” She makes sure the house is clean enough, but orders trays of sandwiches and veggies with ranch dip from the local deli, and makes sure the sheets on the bed in the guest room are clean, but doesn’t care if they match exactly or have a couple of small holes in the seams. The bathroom is clean, but a bit cluttered and a few freshly washed towels are stacked on the shelf for the guest’s use, but they, like the linens, are neither perfectly matched nor entirely free of flaws.

The Type A sister misses out on all the juicy conversations going on in various parts of the house . . . the sports talk among the men in the family room, the joking and bantering among the teenagers gathered in the dining room, the women sitting outside by the spotlessly glistening pool in which the hostess really never swims because she claims to always be too busy.

The other sister moves between the various groups clustered about the house, leaving the family room when the large-screen television set is turned on so that the sports fans in the group can watch the football game in favor of hanging with the kids for awhile in the dining room. She has to know what is so funny after she hears their laughter reverberating down the hallway. Finally, when their conversation turns to rock bands she has never heard of, she ambles outside to join the other women who are dangling their feet in the pool while sipping wine and comparing notes about their latest diets, kids’ activities or husbands’ quirks.

One sister throws a lovely party, but never gets time to enjoy it herself, even though her guests have a great time. She complains that there are no pictures of her in the family photo albums. That’s because when photos are being snapped, she is always fussing in the kitchen, refilling guests’ drinks or checking the bathrooms to make sure that there are still clean fingertip towels on the counter.

The other sister will never be compared to Martha Stewart but has a great time when friends come over. Her photo album is filled with candid shots of her in the midst of her guests, laughing, proposing toasts, blowing out birthday candles.

Which sister do you relate to?

I used to bow my head in shame at my inability to match my sister’s prowess as a homemaker and hostess. Her house is always perfect: Clean, tidy, everything in its place. She is practically a gourmet cook, wraps packages seamlessly in perfectly coordinated paper, bows and accessories, arranges flowers, is an expert-level calligrapher.

My house always looks decidedly lived in. While her Christmas trees look like they came from a Fifth Avenue display, ours always looks like we borrowed it from Charlie Brown. I’m usually lucky to have any packages to wrap due to my schedule and tendency to procrastinate, not to mention utter lack of creativity. I am lucky to get some paper and one of those stick-on bows on each package and have been known to give gift certificates — or even worse, cash — because I simply cannot think of anything else to buy.

In recent years, given that all of our parents are gone and the youngest kid in the family is 15, my sister has mellowed and I have quit feeling so guilty about my nonexistent domestic prowess. We have found compromise on holidays, going out to restaurants more and, when we do celebrate at home, forsaking the China and crystal in favor of eating buffet style using paper or plastic plates that can be thrown away. I have become more insistent about contributing to the meal and refuse to show up if she cooks for hours and hours on end . . . I’m always willing to pick up salads, meat and cheese or sandwich and veggie trays from the deli. The kids prefer informal dining and none of us needs to consume a heavy, calorie- and fat-laden meal, anyway.

As we get older, she is giving up some of her Martha traits and becoming more like Mary, willing to linger at the dining room table to enjoy the banter of the four boys and my oldest nephew’s girlfriend. I am more likely to help in the kitchen if it is a simple matter of putting away leftovers, as opposed to standing there for an eternity drying China and crystal that she is unwilling to put in the dishwasher.

My sister is showing up in more and more photos . . . I am taking more pictures. God has helped us ease out of our young adult roles of “Obsessive, Driven Hostess” and her “Slacker Sister” into the more mature and evenly matched “Great Hostess” and “Mediocre and Not Apologizing for it Hostess.” I used to stumble over my own inadequacies, but in time came to accept what our mother knew all along: The best seamstress would inherit her sewing machine, the best musician would own the piano. She always knew that her Singer would end up in my sister’s house and the piano would remain right here in the house where we both learned to play it, but only one of us pounded those keys as though her soul depended upon the melodies emanating from it (because it did).

There is a little of both Martha and Mary in all of us. What’s important is how you reconcile that reality and learn to be comfortable with your identity. When you do, you will quit stumbling and find yourself empowered to glorify God by using the gifts and talents he gave you without guilt or shame about lacking those that he saw fit to bestow upon others.

Martha or Mary? Or are you a little of each?



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8 Comments

  1. What a wonderful take on this week’s quote. I used to be more Martha when I was younger, but now – I think I have found the perfect middle when it comes to house-guest in our home 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.

    Be blessed today and always.

  2. Thanks for sharing. I have been so encouraged reading this book – and I too certainly have a little Mary & Martha. So much to learn from and grow from!

    Loni

  3. Great post. I especially loved this part:

    There is a little of both Martha and Mary in all of us. What’s important is how you reconcile that reality and learn to be comfortable with your identity. When you do, you will quit stumbling and find yourself empowered to glorify God by using the gifts and talents he gave you without guilt or shame about lacking those that he saw fit to bestow upon others.

    So true. I am a little of both and more willing to face that now after the years also..LOL:)

    Thanks for the wonderful post.

    Angel ():)

  4. Miriam Pauline

    Great post! I’m a little of both, but trying to be less Martha.

  5. I used to be a Mary. My house was perfectly clean. The curtains… custom designed. I liked to entertain, cook and be busy in the kitchen. It was easier than sitting and making coversation. Then I had children ~ then I quit work and we live on my DH’s salary… God is working on me ~

  6. Good points. Any family with more than two girls will experience both…hmm maybe both in one.

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