Who is coming to dinner? Part Two

I know she could handle the crowd. Granted, life had been hectic recently, what with the revival going on and all – but STILL she was an old pro at hospitality, she was older with no children in her home, she’d done it for years! Naturally all the rain did mean that there were footprints on all the floors and the laundry hadn’t been hung out to dry recently, but still….it should have been a breeze.

Should have been, but it wasn’t. She was stressed, she was angry and most likely she was PMS’ing. (At least that’s how I see it.) Yes, having an additional 13 men, at least, drop in for dinner is a big task, but big enough to make her lose it in front of everyone? Hands on her hips, demanding help? That just wasn’t her style.

Dinner then was generally a meat, a vegetable, possibly some bread and some wine. That is all the normal dinner that would have been expected. What do you want to bet she was making more than one meat, probably more than one vegetable and I am certain there were Fig Gravitys on the menu too. (For the uninitiated, these were the forerunners to Fig Newtons, natch!) Of course, it was the teacher coming for dinner – but it isn’t like they just dropped in – she invited them!

This is the picture we have of Martha serving our Lord in her home. I have no doubt, whatsoever, that dear Martha was a picture of the ultimate hostess. NO doubt. Jesus was certainly eager to sup in her home. Likely her reputation, of being the place to desire an invitation to, was well known. So, what is it that made our dear Sister lose her cool?

I’m willing to put a lot of money on perfectionism. I’m betting, with the Lord there, that she wanted to make a good impression. I’m betting her initial desire was to minister to Him. I’m betting that she just wanted to make His stay at her house better than any other. I’m also willing to bet that she wanted her brother to look good in, at the very least, the eyes of the other men in the city. (Can’t you hear the talk at the gate the next morning? “Hey Dude, did you see who went to dinner at Lazarus’ house last night?!” I’m certain it was spoken with envy.)

But, I believe, because Martha became more focused on the details than the people she was serving, that what she intended to become a special night of ministry was one that resounded in her mind as a total bomb. How very, very sad for her. (How very, very good for me! What an encouragement to read that I’m not the only one who blows it.)

You know, as I have been pondering this – and this particular sin is a “favorite” of mine, so I’ve spent a day or two thinking about it – 🙄 I think I have found one quick litmus test that will allow us to know if we have stepped outside of the righteous desire to serve and into the mode of perfectionist. Relationships.

You and I both know that when Martha went to speak to Jesus about Mary, she was royally TICKED. She was likely pointing and snorking all about the house prior to confronting the Lord. When she went to the Lord, notice, He took the time to tell her she was distracted by many things and to point out that Mary had chosen the better part. What exactly had Mary chosen? Relationship. Relationship with Jesus. She was seated at His feet.

I find it…interesting that Scripture doesn’t give us a picture of what things were like when Jesus and Co. left Martha’s home. Can you imagine?!! WHEW, I’m betting her nose was out of whack with Mary!! (Mary probably had to make dinner for a MONTH to make up for that one.) Notice though, that we do have a picture of Martha’s next meeting with Jesus….it is after Lazarus has died.

She goes out to meet Him, at the edge of town and her first words weren’t “Oh Lord, I’m so glad You’re here. You missed him. Oh Lord, I’m so sad…” Rather, her words are, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” I’m sorry – I keep trying to say them in my head and have them sound loving and kind and gentle of spirit. Instead I hear a woman who is yet, possibly secretly, hiding a seed of resentment in her heart. If she had said, “Oh Lord, I know, that if only You could have been here, You would have touched him and healed him.” or something else of that tenure, I would say, “Yep, there was a woman who loved the Lord and knew that He had all the answers to her needs.” Instead, I see a woman who was still suffering from strained relationships – all due to her perfectionism.

Can you relate? Have you noticed that when you’re making that slide into sin, that the first thing that happens is you either a) get short with your family or b) start feeling like a martyr?!! No, me neither. (HA!) BUT, let’s say we DID feel that way, wouldn’t that be something that we’d want to be highly attuned to? Wouldn’t you want to know you’re at the edge of that slippery slope of perfectionism, rather than serving, as was your original intent?!!

Please pray about this – ask Father if indeed you may see the straining of relationships in your life as a clear beacon that you are stepping out of the desire to serve and into the desire to be appreciated (OUCH! How can one type and step on one’s own toes at the same time?!) or under the umbrella of perfectionism. I know that this seems to be the case in my life, every time!

Tomorrow, I’m going to offer a possible alternative to seeking to have “positive” perfectionism in our lives. I do not presume to think that I have all the answers – just the thoughts that I’ve been chewing on and talking to Father about. If this doesn’t apply to you, I sure hope you will feel totally freed from this conversation…..and invite me to dinner!!! 😉

8 Responses to “Who is coming to dinner? Part Two”
  1. What a wonderful picture of Martha…helps me get a handle on her I didn’t have before. Also some great touchstones to ponder as I face my own disaster in the house (when mom is sick, it doesn’t occur to anyone to clean up or even do their chores)….Relationship vs. Perfectionism…Walking in the Spirit vs. Walking in the Flesh.

    My dh brings associates over from time to time (it’s unavoidable in agriculture–almost all business gets done from the kitchen table it seems) but he has learned to give me fair warning and I usually see that at least the kitchen is picked up (and hopefully no major messes in the next room either).

    I certainly don’t have Jesus and the disciples coming to dinner, but I do have a multitude of tasks facing me on any given day….the house isn’t as clean as it should be…the laundry is behind…we aren’t where I want to be in our schooling…there’s this project and that project that never got done…I know I need to cull “stuff” from our home, but when will I ever find the time to?…and don’t even ask me about the kids’ picture albums because I haven’t worked on those since Anna was a baby (so that puts me, um, 8 years behind at least).

    In the midst of the chaos, this morning my heart cries “Lord show me the better thing, the needful thing. Help me choose relationship over perfectionism. Help me walk in your Spirit instead of by my own strength.”

    Thanks for the great reminder Dawn!

  2. Dawn – This is a great picture of Martha. How easy it is to identify with her, huh? It seems like a sacriledge to say that she might have been ticked with Christ – but isn’t that just how it sounds? How amazing to remember that, though she called Him Lord, He was a man to her. A real living breathing man in her house. What has always struck me most about this story is the obvious relationship between Christ and Mary after Lazarus dies (and I’m trusting y’all understand I mean relationship NOT relaaaationship). She practically runs to Him when He asks for her, she throws herself at His feet. And, though He knows He can bring Lazarus back, when He sees her pain, He weeps with her. He knows it will all work out and yet He loves her so much He cries with her. He’s not crying over the loss of Lazarus here the way I always thought, He’s crying because He loves Mary and she’s hurting. And He loves me like that too! I can have that same kind of relationship with Him! Oh, I know this isn’t what we were talking about, but I just can’t help it. Isn’t He amazing!?!

  3. Jenna says:

    Great post, Dawn! I’m going to have to read it again….and maybe again…and…. lol

  4. DawnP says:

    Very well said, Dawn. With me the same struggles all apply, but more often in the homeschool realm of things – but very parallel in all regards. Thanks for the attitude adjustment reminders!

  5. Mrs. Nehemiah says:

    I have a friend who brought up the idea that this was probably the *first* time Mary wasn’t helping Martha in the kitchen (and for such an important guest) and poor Martha was a bit overwhelmed. We can expect as we move from “being Marthas” to “being Marys” that the Marthas we leave in the kitchen will get a bit peeved with us.
    Mary understood that we’re “judged” by our relationship with the Judge.
    Martha thought that we’re judged by our good works for Him

    Mrs N

  6. Margie says:

    I was right in the middle of my strength training exercises when God smacked me over the head with words from your post (that’s a good thing!). I have been struggling with relationship vs. having the “perfectly” smooth running, scheduled homeschool.

    “Please pray about this – ask Father if indeed you may see the straining of relationships in your life as a clear beacon that you are stepping out of the desire to serve and into the desire to be appreciated (OUCH! How can one type and step on one’s own toes at the same time?!) or under the umbrella of perfectionism.”

    I am sacrificing the relationship with my children for the glory of a “perfect” homeschool. OUCH!

    Now, to ask the Father what He wants me to change and how to remove this sin from my life.

  7. whimsy says:

    Talk about timing! I hope I can walk with my toes all squashed like they are.

    We were going to spend Saturday with DH’s mom and dad. We needed to change to plans to Sunday and I knew it wasn’t going to be good. His mama likes to make a big meal (and she is a spectacular cook) and it’s hard for her to do that on Sunday. I explained that it would cause her stress if we came on Sunday instead of Saturday. DH asked me if I realized how silly that was. He said he almost feels bad to visit because he knows she’ll put herself out so much.

    I’m also going to pop back over to the beginning post because I have some thoughts for over there too.

  8. javadawn says:

    Will y’all still speak to me if I tell you that I was planning on discussing perfectionism in our homeschools tomorrow? (or tonight, as the case may be)

    Shannon, isn’t it amazing?!! I just revel in the depth of His love for us.

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