Some people have a knack for entertaining. You walk into their home and they make you feel like you belong there. When you leave, you are nourished, refreshed, encouraged, and grateful.
I’ll be honest – entertaining doesn’t come naturally to me. At least it didn’t used to. I always had reasons why I shouldn’t have people over (the house was too small/dirty/cluttered/whatever) and the rare instances when we did have friends over, I was an anxious grump anticipating their arrival, trying to accomplish a month’s worth of housework in a day. For a season we were teaching weekly swing dance lessons in our small condo, and we would spend the hours beforehand hiding all the clutter from the living room in our bedroom and the guest room. Then we’d pray that no one would accidently open one of those doors!
Physical environment aside, I just never really felt like I knew how to make others feel welcome in our home. The stress and worry of what they would think kept me from truly enjoying our friends.
Now, I know that when I go to someone else’s house, I don’t judge the experience in the harsh, critical manner in which I would judge my own hospitality. I am not worried about the piles of clutter on their dining table when I drop in on short notice. I am not expecting to have homemade goodies fresh out of the oven. What I remember most is the experience. When I step into someone’s home, I feel welcomed, loved, and cared for.
So why the double standard? I’d say its probably because I’m a Martha at heart. No, I didn’t mean Martha Stewart (although I wouldn’t mind that!). I am talking Martha from the bible. See Luke 10:38-42.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
There are a few things characteristic of the “Martha type”.
- She is distracted from enjoying the people in her home.
- She is overwhelmed with tasks.
- She is anxious and troubled.
Martha was not able to balance the people side of hospitality with the practical side, and as a result, she missed out on precious time with those she loved. I can’t help but wonder if that feeling of being overwhelmed kept her from even inviting people in sometimes. I have succumbed to that feeling many times and not opened up my home when the opportunity came up.
We recently moved to a new state, and as I mentioned previously, I am hitting the reset button. With God’s help, things are going to be different this time around. I have set a lofty goal to have company over at least once a week. I am also working to maintain a comfortable (i.e. not horrendously cluttered or dirty) environment using the planning and organizational tools I shared a few weeks back. My hope is that I will be able to learn to be more like Mary, spending quality time with people in my home and setting perfection aside.
I am telling the Martha in me to slow down, invite people in, and love on them like Jesus would.