imperfect hospitality ~ being more mary and less martha

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
— Luke 10:38-42


If you are a Christian woman, by now you have probably heard the story of Mary and Martha—the sisters who opened their home to Jesus and his disciples. While Martha was busy making preparations, as any good host would, Mary simply sat and listened to Jesus. When Martha complained, Jesus addressed with words that, if you pride yourself in being a good hostess, would sting if directed at you: you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

The practical feisty Puerto Rican woman in me reads these words and thinks “Ah, ah, Jesus. Hold up a moment— how is Martha at fault? She is trying to welcome you and your disciples in a comfortable way. Here she is working hard and you basically scolded her. Do you want to eat? Because the food doesn’t prepare itself. So you better be nice to my girl, Martha”. But then I step back and rile the Puerto Rican back in and the Christian woman in me recognizes wisdom and meaning of His words.

My instant reaction to defend Martha is due to the fact that, for better or worse, I AM A MARTHA. I am not perfect. I am a work in progress. And truth be told, a part of me loves being a Martha. I love practicing hospitality as a way of showing love. Caring for my guests—whether through cooking, entertaining, etc.—is how I show love. But for the longest time, I took it to the extreme. I still do sometimes.

Can I confess something to you? For the longest time, I did not practice hospitality because I was afraid that my efforts would not be perfect. I wanted my guests to have a “perfect” experience and that involved making sure everything was… well, perfect. The fear that any of my guests would find something wrong sometimes crippled my efforts. A few times I cancelled gatherings and events because they would not be perfect. This is in complete contrast to how I grew up in a Latino family. Welcoming others into our home was not about perfection but about imperfect hospitality and it was a beautiful thing.


Imperfect hospitality

can seem like a burden but it is not. It is so beautiful. It is spur of the moment. It is genuine… loving…giving… from the heart.

This self-reality is why I really relate and love the Mary and Martha story—it reminds me of who I am but also of how to focus on what is important. Jesus’ comment is about focusing in what is truly important and in that moment it was the presence of Jesus—the presence of God in human form.

How many times are we so worried and busy that we miss God’s presence in our lives? We are running around until we are exhausted and in the process we stop listening to God; we stop learning from his teachings. We let our daily lives become so consuming that we only give God partial attention instead of what He deserves—our full attention. We cannot listen in the hectic chaos of life so we have to be intentional about stopping and sitting at the feet of Jesus.

I want us to say this out loud together—stopping and sitting at the feet of Jesus. This is important because to do this we have to acknowledge that we are Martha. And being a Martha recognizes that, in the scheme of things, God has not been the most important thing. It recognizes that we have ignored God’s presence. It is a sobering realization but necessary it is.

The Christmas season is finally here and with it the pressures of being that perfect hostess. And if we Marthas are not careful, we will go down the rabitt hole of trying to achieve perfection, and we will miss the true reason for the season. So, today dear sisters, my wish and prayer is for all of us Marthas to recognize who we are and what we are made of. To tell ourselves that imperfect hospitality is ok because it is about connecting and nurturing relationships rather than impressing others. To have self-awareness of our relationship with God when life gets crazy. To realize that God has not been the priority in our lives and allowing ourselves to re-gauge our focus to Him. But most importantly— to stop, sitting at the feet of Jesus, and allowing His mercy and love wash over us.

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