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Only One Thing Is Needed

So the date had been set. At least that was something. Now I could start planning. If the picnic is at our home on Sunday, I can cut the grass probably two days beforehand and it’ll still look good. I work 12 hour shifts that week on Wednesday and Thursday so I might get some of “the park” cut, at least at the back, after my shift Thursday evening. I hope that’ll work. I call our yard “the park” because it is so big and beautiful especially when newly manicured. On the Wednesday night after work I can get the groceries. I’d better not forget anything because no one will want to make another trip into town. So that still leaves me Friday and Saturday to prep the food and clean the house. I can likely get some food ready earlier and freeze it but you know fresh is best so I’ll aim for that and see what happens.

Now as for numbers, well everyone always says they are coming but then a few are a no show, you can count on it, while others tag along without any prior notice. So, I wonder how many I should cook for… Of course too much is better than not enough so I’ll plan for about 10 people extra at minimum. That could result in a lot of leftovers but oh well…doggy bags, yes! Everyone loves a doggy bag to take home. I’ll make about 10-12 different salads and 3 or 4 different cakes or squares, maybe 5 would be better. I might need to borrow some tablecloths, people often overlook tablecloths for a picnic, and lots of wipes. There won’t be enough lawn chairs so folks’ll have to bring their own. I mustn’t forget to mention that on the invitation. I’ll clean what I can on Friday but some areas, like the bathroom for instance, is a last minute job so that it’s sparkling…

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Oh my, I’m wearing myself out just rereading this! I remember that in those days I would be so totally exhausted after such a doo. People would recount a joke or a comment from the day of to me, a remember this or that, and I’d think, where was I? I’d missed the whole affair! It really got to the point where it saddened me and I envied people even on TV who seemed to have it all together plus looked amazing while doing it-the hostess with the mostest! But then someone would tell me what a wonderful day it was, or how they enjoyed a certain dish, or maybe even ask for the recipe, and I was overjoyed. I think I continued to host again and again because of the accolades, and that’s pretty pathetic isn’t it. Yup, this is how my brain USED to work…but not anymore, not since living in Africa and not since getting older and wiser.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Mary and Martha many times but let’s look at it from, shall we say, a more mature point of view. My party days are long gone. Now I enjoy hosting a lovely brunch for 2 or 3 close friends. Yes, I still want the bathroom to be at its best but I don’t plan and fuss with every little detail to no end like I used to. If the lawn isn’t recently coiffed, so what. In Luke we read that Jesus came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Jesus, and to his entourage, too, I expect. Martha was the one who extended the invitation-go Martha! That was me. I can so relate every time I read this. I used to invite people, lots of them, and then wonder why I was doing all the work. (If you were ever one of my guests please forgive me for this) I eventually learned that I couldn’t have it both ways. I couldn’t enjoy the festivities if I was always fussing about the prep, and the food, and the numbers, and my home….

I wonder if Martha wanted to impress Jesus, this man she’d heard so much about, or if she genuinely wanted to know him more. It seems from the story that at this point it was the former. In fact, she went to Jesus in total frustration complaining about the lack of assistance from her sister, Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to him. She insisted that he tell her to help. But, her busyness was distracting her from the main event-Jesus was present! Poor Martha must have been stopped in her tracks by Jesus’ response.

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled by many things; only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” he said.

Wow! Martha was taken aback! This was probably not at all what she expected to hear. Jesus certainly had a way of straightening people out. Notice he didn’t go to Martha and ask her to come and listen, too, as her sister was. He waited till she came to him in complete frustration. More often than not we will only learn the hard way. So what was that one thing that was needed, she probably wondered?

When I was young, every time I heard this story I felt guilty over all my fussing when I had guests. Was I, too, only concerned about presentation and praise? Eventually I realized Jesus wasn’t scolding Martha but rather helping her set her priorities straight. He was asking her to examine her motives. He was asking her to remember what was most important. He was asking her to consider her why, that one thing. When I began to examine my own motives about hosting, volunteering or helping anyone with anything my whole perspective shifted. I need to have the right reasons “or I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” 1 Corinthians 13:1 Big or small, all things must be done with Love! It’s the only motive that matters.

Initially Martha was driven by details and practicalities. She was a most generous soul of hospitality. Later on in John 12 we see Martha again serving at a meal in Jesus’ honour. Somehow I expect she wasn’t quite the same person at this party. I think this time she may have gotten her priorities straight. I can picture her at this dinner joyous and attentive to the all guests, now delighted to serve for the right reason. Martha had a servant’s heart and that never changed about her but I expect what did change was her motive. What a marvelous thing! Acts of service are always needed and to this Christians must be most attentive. It’s vital. I realized I didn’t need to fight the Martha in me. I simply learned always to ask myself in whatever I am doing if I am doing the right thing for the right reason.

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