I've never particularly liked the story of Mary and Martha. Probably because I can totally relate to Martha, and yet Mary is the one Jesus praises. It always feels a little like He's chastising me when He says "Mary has chosen what is better" (Luke 10:42).
Truthfully, I feel bad for Martha! She was just trying to be a good hostess after all. I'd do the same. The meal needed to be prepared, the table to be set, she probably had to tidy up a little bit. She had opened her home not to just any guy, but the Lord...and I'm sure she wanted to make a good impression.
But when we get down to it, hospitality boils down to one simple truth: everyone wants to be invited in. We've all been there...maybe you've been the new girl hoping for a friend or maybe you've seen the new girl and felt the tug to include her. And when it comes to Mary and Martha, the reality is that things do need to get done.
But you can't keep working for people to be invited in. If you keep washing the dishes or clearing the table, everyone else is going to feel like they need to be working too or not be included.
This post is part of The Peony Project's monthly link-up.
I don't know abut you, but I was raised to always offer to help. And so, when I go to a party or gathering and the host stands up to start the clean-up process, my instinct is to pitch in. And when I'm the host, I will often begin cleaning up when my guests are still around the table.
Don't get me wrong...I think the conversations that happen at the sink, with one person washing dishes and another drying, can be life-giving and relationship-forming. My mom will tell you that she bonded with her sisters-in-law over sinks full of dirty dishes after family gatherings. And watching them in the kitchen (and joining them) is now one of my favorite things about those family dinners.
But when we look deeper at the story of Mary and Martha, it's not just about doing work versus sitting at the table and spending time with others. Martha comes to Jesus, with Mary at His feet, asking Him to send her sister to help her prepare the meal. She was so worried by the work to be done that she couldn't see the importance in what her sister had chosen.
And when I examine my own heart, it's here that I can relate the most to Martha. Because often, when I'm standing at that kitchen sink and there are people at the table who haven't offered to help, my heart turns bitter. Thoughts of "why aren't they helping?" and "can't they see what work needs to be done?" run through my mind.
True hospitality is a posture of the heart. It's not enough to just open your doors and invite people into your home. No matter how pinterest-perfect and carefully planned a gathering is, making people feel welcome goes beyond a picturesque table setting and a delicious dinner followed by warm cups of coffee.
In reality, it doesn't matter how well you prepare, what people will remember is how well you cared.
There's beauty in sharing your home and your food. Impact in being generous with your money and your time. Inviting people into your life, no matter how messy and imperfect it may be at times, is worth it.
But it can be so much better, so much more impactful, so much more beautiful, if you "choose what is better."
Choose the conversation over the task list.
Choose to listen when the dishes are screaming at you.
Choose to include people in the relationship instead of the work.
I'm not sure that the story of Mary and Martha will ever not make me feel uncomfortable. And that's probably the point. Because for me, it's easy to see the work to be done and do it. It stretches me more to make the small talk and ask the good and hard questions. But washing dishes isn't what Jesus asks us to do. He asks us to take the time to see the need, to see the person, and to be His hands and feet.
What about you? How do you embrace and exhibit hospitality in your life?
If you're a blogger reading this, and you've been searching for a community to call home; searching for people who will understand this part of your life, who will get the blogging world and who will be real friends for you in it, then I hope you'll consider joining us in The Peony Project. that's our heart, after all...to be friends for the journey.
And if you just stopped by today to do a little reading, then I'm so happy you're here. And I hope you'll either consider what peace means to you and join in on our link-up, or that you'll stop by a few of the other posts below and check out what it means to some other awesome ladies.