Fried chicken and hash brown casserole. Our plane from China touched down, and she knew to dish up comfort. With two newly adopted kids and ruthless jet lag, months of coordinated meals became divine provision.
Weeks later, shell-shocked from a hospital stay and hard news for our new daughter, she brought cheesy breakfast biscuits.
Then came surgeries and more kindness. Next was an unexpected hospital stay, so she organized another meal train. Others have also served with extravagance over the past months. They’ve babysat, held kids and written anonymous checks for medical bills.
Our gratitude has overflowed, but I’ve argued with every servant, assuring them that they were busy, and we had it under control.
In between organized meals, four wise mentors watched as I, on overdrive, managed our new family of six through extensive medical appointments, teaching English, therapies, medical care, attachment issues, homeschool, and gymnastics. It was time to let go of my Martha-like inclination they said, to become a little more Mary-ish.
Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what [the Lord] said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'” (Luke 10:38-42, condensed).
They brought occasional meals and folded baskets of our sheets, each time cleverly bringing bags of M&Ms as a Martha to Mary nudge. My challenge? To spend distraction free time with our kids whose lives had also been turned upside down. From their front row seats, my mentors observed as I danced around offers of help. They looked deeply, saw my overly fierce independence, and lovingly suggested change.
Someone is folding our underwear and I’m squirmy. A mentor tells me I’m stubborn, and I’m offended. They say “Let us bless you as we serve out of abundance” and I still want to fuss. Oh, Lord, I think you might be operating on my heart again. Maybe you’ve been speaking, and I’ve been busy being Martha.
In Galatians, we’re told that we fulfill the law of Christ when we carry each other’s burdens. I think God has been pleased with our burden carriers, but I’ve felt graciously uncomfortable, feeling like they’ve been bearing a load that was ours to carry.
Sensing a lesson to lean in for, I sorted through why we resist care.
- We’re concerned about our friends, and don’t want to add a burden.
- We willfully grasp for control.
- Showing weakness is too intimate.
- We’re busy and don’t think of it.
- We see help only from the human perspective.
- We prefer to serve rather than be served.
We’ve faced challenges these last months, but also been sustained and stretched by care. I now desire to step toward deeper intimacy with the people we love. Micha Boyett says, “Sometimes humility is the riskiest pursuit of all.” I say risky and freedom granting.
Once, one of my M&M mentor friends came over unexpectedly for a laundry pick-up. In the midst of a rough week, I had kids overtired from a round of doctors’ appointments. With fussy little people bathing in a not so clean tub, I had no energy left for masquerading as having it all together. So instead of leaving her waiting in the living room, I took a risk and truly invited her in. That afternoon she sat with me on my unmade bed with the stained quilt, next to my water marked, piled high nightstand and ministered to me by acting unphased by the mess. Water sloshed over the side of the tub, and she got on her knees and wrapped my son in his Cookie Monster towel. It was intimate, and my pretense bound heart melted.
Mother Teresa believed, “The fruit of service is peace.” Marc Driscoll proposed, “When others serve us, they grow in their unique gifting from God, just as we do when we serve others.” Peace and growing in gifts? Yes, of course I want those things for myself and those I love. 1 Peter 4:10 even tells us that we are “good stewards of God’s grace” when we use our gifts to serve one another. Maybe I’ve been making it about us too much. Instead, maybe this is just how we are meant to do life.
Now, as I munch on M&Ms and reflect, I’m listening to what God seems to be saying:
- The extravagance of my friends is the extravagance of my God. He provides in creative ways, sometimes through a well timed soup and salad delivery.
- Despite how mightily we try, we can’t do life alone.
- In some seasons, God strategically places people to walk beside us, serving as His hands and feet.
- Serving is a blessing, and it is isn’t up to me to decide if someone has time. If they offer, I should assume they desire to be a blessing.
- Intimacy requires that I abandon my relentless independence.
Burden carriers have lightened our load. While meeting needs, they cultivated truer community. I accept the Martha to Mary nudge, and in the end, surrender to gratitude and the lavish provision of the Lord. In big and little ways, difficult times and normal daily life, I want to let people in, allowing myself to be loved. If a friend offers to visit during a hospital stay or if my mother in law wants to load the dishwasher during a visit, why not? Independence is lonely.