I don’t come by hostessing very easily.
Even though my Mom can throw together a delicious casserole without a recipe (and somehow magically has every ingredient on hand) and invite twenty people into the home I grew up in without a second thought; in the same situation, I'm 99.9% likely to have a panic attack and be found hiding in my closet in the fetal position, sucking my thumb. My Mom may be dubbed "the party queen" or "the hostess with the mostest" but me? Well... just no.
It’s all that Mary and Martha stuff that we’ve come to know. You know the basics - Martha was busy trying to prepare a house and a table for a bunch of hungry, dirt-road traveled men. Mary sat her tush down in the Middle Eastern grass and settled in for some Higher learning. Martha was trying to do the responsible thing. Probably the only thing she knew to do in such a situation. And Mary decided to throw it all to the wind and seek out Jesus.
Oh hey, Jesus said it’s better to just sit and glean knowledge? Awesome. I’ll leave the unloading of the dishwasher, the folding of the laundry and the mopping of the floor to someone else.
Jesus said Mary chose the better part because of where her heart rested. It wasn’t because cooking and cleaning and preparing a restful space for others wasn’t important. It’s because Martha was all flustered and demanding, her heart hurried and stressed. I don’t know that Mary was trying to get out of setting the table and milking the goats. She chose the better part, not because she was sitting in silence and laziness - but because she was actively seeking God.
But we can seek God in our activity, our day-to-day, too.
Lately I have been given a lot of time to think about the old Bible story that we seem to know so well. And I’ve been challenged to think of my own home and my own habits of hospitality - or, sometimes, the lack thereof.
It is easy for me to feel overwhelmed. That’s just my personality. While I like people and get togethers and I can now sing on stage without passing out or bursting into an ugly cry, the truth is I’m an introvert and I like my space and my quiet and my routine. I’m very safe, very happy there. I do things my way and nobody messes with it.
I can be very Martha-ish. That is, the Martha before Jesus talked to her about her heart.
When we first moved to our now home just over a year ago, we were barely settled in and Aaron wanted to invite people over that very night. I nearly threw up all over myself and I yelled and had a lot of tears. It was dramatic. But I had a newborn and I was in a new house and I was disheveled and unshowered and exhausted (and frankly, dealing with what we now suspect was a touch of post-partum depression). People in my house? Now? No. Oh, gosh, no.
But there’s something I’ve learned since... of the beauty of having a virtual revolving door to the front of our home, not a locked one. I’m figuring out that people don’t care about my dishes or my floor. That it’s okay if I order the best pizza in town and have it delivered. It’s alright if the only candles I have to burn are from Glade or FeBreeze because I had coupons for them. The real question: is my home a showcase... or a sanctuary?
I have always worked very hard so that my home would be warm and comfortable for those who live here - specifically my husband. I take into consideration the things he likes and doesn’t and I try to be careful to get overly girly in my decorating techniques. He says no curtains? Okay, so we don’t have curtains. It’s his home, too and I want him to want to be here. I want it to be restful for him. I want it to be clean and safe for the boys to run and play and grow. I want it to be inviting to family and friends and strangers.
I want God to be here.
I can have all the pretty things in the world, but without God front and center, it’s just going to remain fancy and hollow. I can have marble countertops or the newest gadget, but if God isn’t sought after between these walls, if He is not exalted, recognized. praised... then what really does any of it matter? If I cook food and set a table and wash feet of dirty travelers, but miss the point of true fellowship, of true gathering... then who really cares about my homemade pie or my from-scratch biscuits?
I’ve struggled because while encouraging and gifting may come naturally to me, but the whole cooking and having people invade my space when it’s not on my terms, has been hard. I’ve allowed myself to be crippled and for my home to hobble along with half a heart. I think that’s what Jesus was getting at with Martha. He wasn’t mad at her. He didn’t snub her or not eat dinner that night. He wasn’t unthankful for what she had done or that the food filled their hungry bellies. Her actions weren’t wrong. Her heart was.
I think He was maybe trying to convey to her that she could seek Him and find Him... and cook, and minister and serve - which were her natural inclinations... all to the glory of God. Jesus wasn't saying, "Don't ever cook for us again! Just sit and rest forever." Someone had to feed and clean up and welcome. But slamming dishes, heaving great sighs and demanding others help isn't the way to be. We exalt the Proverbs 31 woman (who was extremely active!) but kick Martha to the curb. Let's not. Because I'm pretty sure we have all been the Martha who just needed to get refocused and realigned. She wasn't bad or evil or ugly spirited. She just got busy and distracted and blurred about what true gathering together looks like.
I’m finding that when my heart is seeking Him, when it’s all heavy with gratitude and the weight of blessings pulls at the hinges of my heart, of my front door - it has to swing open. You might get homemade enchiladas. You might get tuna casserole from a box. You might get sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies. You might get coffee and nothing else, cause that’s all I have. But we know that if God is in it, it cannot fail. We know He does a lot with little.
And I stand behind the fact that I think He can definitely work through a delivered pizza, too.
"Don't burn out;
keep yourselves fueled and aflame.
Be alert servants of the Master,
Don't quit in hard times;
pray all the harder.
Help needy Christians;
be inventive in hospitality."
~ R o m a n s 1 2 : 1 1 - 1 3