The only spanking I remember from my mother was over a word. I’ve always loved good words, new words, exotic words. I liked to practice writing them and saying them. As a sixth grader on the school bus I would bump down the country roads trying to write calligraphy.
One Saturday afternoon I was practicing out a new word. I’d heard it that morning on a cartoon. While hanging off a branch of the pear tree in our front yard I whispered it in various sentences, “A dastardly deed.” “That Dastardly Snidely Whiplash!” “It was such a dastardly deed.”
Unfortunately, my mother misunderstood my whispered word and as a stickler for bible approved language she didn’t hesitate to employ the wooden spoon. It was hardly a sting on the backside as she was not one for strong punishment, but the pain of powerlessness at being misunderstood has been a lash I have felt many more times in my life.
Being misunderstood is one of the most painful and frequent experiences I encounter even to this day. It is part of the hazard of the calling, I suppose. Having a Teaching anointing means speaking and writing. And just like the issue with the Dudley DoRight cartoon I am often misheard and misquoted.
And oh! The secondary struggle to overcome my desire to clarify, and clarify again for safety’s sake. Yet, continuing to clear it up only seems to make matters worse. It gives me a sense of sisterhood with the two most misunderstood women in the Bible, Mrs. Proverbs 31 and Martha.
Perhaps we have colored their stories with our own definitions. So, let’s pretend we know nothing about Martha and see what the Bible has to say.
God was very specific about Martha.
“In a certain village there was a certain woman named Martha who received Him into her home.” Luke 10:38.
A particular place.
A particular person.
Not every town received Him.
Not every person wanted Him in their life.
I think it is interesting, that word “certain”. It means: tis: A CERTAIN ONE; used of persons and things concerning which the writer either cannot or will not speak more particularly; joined to nouns substantive (nouns having a firm basis in reality and therefore important, meaningful or considerable.)
He wants us to know that Martha is important, meaningful and to be considered. So, of all her qualities, what does He want us to know? That she received Him.
God was specific about Martha because she was specific about Him.
He said, “Those who honor Me, I will honor.”
Received, Hypodechomai: to receive under one’s roof as a guest and to entertain hospitably.
Do you know that in the Jewish culture, there is deliberate preparation for the Sabbath every week? It is a preparing in advance for the honored occasion. This is not supposed to be just a quick tidy up but an intentional arrangement of the food, the activities and the day. One poetic way I heard it described was, “in anticipation of a dear beloved and honored guest.”
Preparing for the Guest of Rest.
Jesus is our Sabbath. Do we prepare for His arrival? Is everything set in order so that we may do nothing for one sun down to sun down day but enjoy His visit?
I read someplace
I don’t remember where
the Jewish day
begins with prayer
followed by a meal
and fellowship, conversation,
love of family they feel.
Then off to sleep
resting in peaceful dreams
In this way they honor
what God said life means.
Finally they rise and work
hard and true
work is last
then the day is through.
Mindsets are all that have to change.
Hypothesis of Misunderstanding #1: I don’t think Martha was corrected by Jesus because she was preparing. I think it might have been because she wasn’t enjoying the preparations. With God, it is the state of the heart more than the outcome of the task. I wonder if she’d been in the kitchen singing vacation bible school songs while she swept would have been choosing the better part.
Is being with Him in heart the better part?
Jesus Visited Martha’s House Often
It is speculated that if the time of the accounts in the Gospels were added up, it would amount to about 30 days of Jesus’ life. Perhaps that is why John said, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25
Even so, it would make the things written written especially important. Other days were not mentioned. Other people were not described. Other interactions were not noted. One mention would be significant: Jesus calmed the storm. Two mentions? Exponentially significant!
Martha is mentioned 13 times. Specifically, by name.
“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those who ate with Him.” John 12:2
Martha served. There is no reprimand here. It was a common occurrence for Jesus to be at Lazarus’ house. In fact, in my studies, I find that Lazarus appeared to have a special place in Jesus’ life. He wasn’t family. He wasn’t on staff. He seems to be Jesus’ friend. The four of them hanging out and having dinner. Could that be one of the reasons why Jesus wept? He’d lost a friend, maybe the only person who wasn’t pulling on Him?
And Martha served those dinner parties.
Served, diakoneo: to be an attendant, to wait upon as a host or friend; technically to act as a Christian deacon. Minister to, serve, to take are of, distribute the things necessary to sustain life. (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible)
Martha, the elder sister, was the deacon of the dinner party.
As the oldest and only sister in my family I enjoy the place of first. I have the most photos in the album. I also have the most responsibility. My mother learned how to be a mother with me. I carry all of those firstborn traits according to a leader in the field:
Dr. Leman’s…typical characteristics: perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, list-makers, well-organized, critical, serious, scholarly, goal-oriented, achiever, self-sacrificing, people-pleaser, conservative, supporter of law and order, believer in authority and ritual, loyal, and self-reliant. Dr. Leman says, “Life is real and life is earnest for the first-born individual. He or she isn’t much for surprises. First-borns prefer to know what’s happening and when. They thrive on being in control, on time and organized.
Inspired by the Head of the Church, Paul helped Timothy with some instructions for running the administration:
So an elder must have a life above reproach. They must be faithful. They must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a god reputation. They must enjoy having guest in their home, and able to teach. They must not be a heavy drinker or violent, but gentle and not quarrelsome…worthy of respect and sincere. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the Faith….1 Timothy 3.
Your personality doesn’t take the Lord by surprise. He knows your tendencies and preferences. Many of them He gave you in order to have more ease in the completion of your destiny. It is so very helpful that I am introvert by nature, as I don’t mind (and in fact, enjoy) the hours of solitude that research and writing require.
We could all be vanilla cutouts of each other. But no, one likes Jazz and the other likes Sweet Iced Tea. Our soul is as unique as our body. We have our own soul-DNA, our own soul’s finger print – heart print – that He took the effort to plan and create.
If we are all His Masterpiece; If we all carry the ‘fingerprint of God’; If we are created in His image and likeness then I think He liked Martha for who she was, firstborn bossiness and all. She was faithful, and wise and enjoyed having guests in her home.
Hypothesis of Misunderstanding #2: Jesus’ correction was to help Martha be strategic with the personality gifts God had created in her. Sometimes we waste our anointing on things He didn’t ask us to do for Him.
If Jesus said He does not make the choice of every action, but only says and does what the Father directs Him to do, then why do I think I can live and serve in the Kingdom without asking His direction?
Have I gazed intently
or never really seen
just a casting glance and I thought it was hazy
because I had stars in my eyes
but in truth, it was dark because
I was rushing by too fast and
waving at you from the
highway of my life
Jesus Knew Her Name
One day I was out writing on the porch. It was a perfect writing moment with the early summer sun warming the day. I was speeding away on my 1953 Underwood Finger-Flite Champion typewriter. And then I paused, and laid my head down on the desk.
I was tearful as I wondered, “Lord, why did you lump me in with the masses? “The whole world”? I am glad you were kind to everyone, but I sure don’t feel uniquely and especially loved.”
We’ve all heard that if we were the only one on in the universe Jesus would have died for us. We know we are the one lost sheep when the other 99 are in the barn. Yet, I was feeling especially unimportant that day.
Not to hurt your feelings, but if you look around, everyone seems to be having a better life than you live. They post it on their Instagram and blog about it weekly. They are traveling in gloriously restored mini campers and swim in the hot springs of far away lands. I just do laundry. I sit at the kitchen table and type.
And yet, don’t you feel it? We were made for something much more. Some royal adventurous existence. I have a way I like to guess people’s God-designed destiny: What does your name mean?
Here’s an example:
Cindy Gayle Galbraith Irwin
Cindy: Reflector of light
Gayle: The father’s joy
Irwin: Of privileged Birth
So, perhaps I am foreign royalty and I bring the Father joy when I reflect The Light.
And Martha? “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and her brother Lazarus.”
He mentions her by name.
Right next to the word love.
If she was truly a disappointment to Him, why did He mention her first and not even name her sister in this passage?
Martha: mistress or lady of the house, a counterpart to the master of the house.
In cowboy terms, she was the Boss Lady.
The root of her name is “bitter, as in grief” and the same word for the fragrant spice, Myrrh.
Myrrh is the main ingredient in the oil Moses used to anoint the tabernacle.
And the main ingredient in the oil to anoint prophets, priests and kings.
Esther bathed in Myrrh.
Myrrh is sprinkled all throughout the lovers’ delights in Song of Songs.
The wise men brought it to Jesus’ birth.
Nicodemus brought it to Jesus’ burial.
Jesus knew her name.
Jesus knew her heart.
Jesus knew her abilities as the lady of the house.
To Him, she was fragrant.
She was also strong.
But sometimes, Boss Lady turns into Bossy Big Sister when I am not strong enough to get others to cooperate with me, especially in what I think is the most important task of the moment.
Hypothesis of Misunderstanding #3: What we do and why we do it are two very different things. Or, you can do the right thing for the wrong reason. Reasons come out of the heart, not the brain. Perhaps Jesus was just saying the same thing a different way to Martha, “I am giving you a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Maybe Jesus wasn’t scolding her, maybe He was trying to give her rest.
“My son, My son, why are you striving
You can’t add one thing to what’s been done for you
I did it all while I was dying
Rest in your faith, my peace will come to you
For when I hear the praises start
I want to rain upon you
Blessings that will fill your heart
I see no stain upon you
Because you are my child and you know me
To Me you’re only holy” – Keith Green When I Hear the Praises Start
Jesus Loved Her
I have a soapbox I’d like to step onto at this time: I do not like the phrase “in spite of”. Especially when added to “I love you”.
I love you in spite of your ______________, in spite of the way you _____________________.
My love tolerates you and your flaws.
Actually, love wouldn’t know there were flaws.
Love believes the best of every person.
There is no “in spite of” in true love.
There is no measure to see if you are worth my love.
God does not love “in spite of”.
Jesus did not give His life “in spite of”.
Do you know that God is not disappointed in you? Love’s hopes are fadeless.
Do you know that God doesn’t just tolerate you? Love never weakens.
What if you took “love” out of 1 Corinthians 13 and put God? (After all, God is Love.)
God is patient and kind.
God is never envious or jealous.
God does not boast of His greatness and your weakness. God is not haughty.
God is not rude or unmannerly.
God does not insist on His own rights or His own way.
God is not self-seeking.
God is not touchy or fretful or resentful.
God takes not account of evil done to Him.
God pays no attention to suffered wrongs.
God does not rejoice at injustice or unrighteousness.
God rejoices when right and truth prevail.
God bears up under anything and everything that comes.
God is ever ready to believe the best of every person.
God’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances.
God’s love endures everything without weakening.
Martha was not a disappointment.
Martha was not in trouble with the Master.
Martha was not being criticized.
And we should not criticize her either. She has been belittled for her busy work. Yet, the scriptures are full of direction toward honest labor over idleness. Mrs. Proverbs 31 was an active woman with a full household schedule. She is extolled as one who outshines all other women.
Hypothesis of Misunderstanding #4: Maybe we are the ones who read with a critical heart. Someone to be the scapegoat. Someone to blame. Martha, that troubled woman who interrupted Jesus and grumped at her sister. Maybe Jesus was trying to help Martha because He loved her.
He didn’t see her as wrong. He saw her as hurting and when you love someone you’ll give your life to take the pain away.
You have no idea
As I watch you there
How much my heart wrings inside my chest
When you try not to cry.
You are my son
Just a mere twenty years old
And they hurt you with their foolish beliefs
And you try to forgive.
If I could take it for you
You would never hurt again
If I had my way.
But I don’t
I am only a mother, not God
And you will try not to cry
And you will try to forgive
And He will have His way
Jesus Experienced Martha Needing Help Twice
There are no recorded conversations between Jesus with Mary. But there are two recorded conversations He had with Martha. The first one is when she asked Him to intervene by making Mary help her.
How much we can’t see! If we divided life into the three realms of body, soul and spirit two thirds of our existence is invisible. And most of our body is not knowable to us just by looking. Consider how much we never see with our natural eyes. We may know, or experience and yet, these are still not seen. 90% of life is invisible!
So that 10% we can see we cling to for safety. We trust our eyes to keep us informed and at attention. Defensive driving. Eye on the ball. Keep a sharp look out. Martha actually needed help. She was just looking at what she could see – her sister.
Perhaps you’ve looked at a few of these with me:
A doctor’s report instead of the Good News.
Loan papers instead of the Windows of Heaven.
My rights instead of the Golden Rule.
It is truly and heavenly true that if people would be different, life would be better.
It is also truly and heavenly true that most people don’t change just to make my life better.
And so life cycles around again. People cause us struggles in life because they are, well, people. They are rude, or clueless, or selfish, or struggling. And we can see them in all their rude and clueless behavior. Where can I go for a helpful change?
The Lord never changes. He is good and He does Good. He is always counted faithful.
People – well, as I’ve said – are people.
So the only other changeable variable in this equation is me.
My reaction to,
And interaction with the trouble.
When you are tired and troubled, are you outward or inward focused?
Here is Heaven’s Measure:
While the outward may change (trouble comes and goes), the inside remains the same.
Let’s read the fruit of the spirit in the Hebrew, from right to left:
You, Cindy, will only have self-control when you are humble;
And you will only be humble when you have and are in faith;
And you will only have faith when you desire to be useful;
And you’ll one desire to be useful if you have integrity;
And you’ll only have integrity if you have long fortitude;
And you’ll only be steadfast if you are whole;
And you’ll only be whole if you have joy;
And you’ll only have joy we you know, and believe The Love.
The second time Martha asked Jesus to intervene she didn’t mention her sister, or her brother, or even Jesus. In fact, she didn’t ask. She stated:
“I know that what you ask of God, He will give it to you.” – Martha (that’s a good quote we should use often!)
Ask and it will be given to you. Matthew 7:7
Draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
They cried to the LORD in their trouble and He brought them out of their distresses. Psalms 107:28
Your Father in Heaven knows what you need before you ask Him. Matthew 6:6
Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do. John 14:13
My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth. Ps 121:2
Misunderstanding Hypothesis #5: Maybe Jesus wasn’t upset about the interruption, or the asking for help. Maybe the issue was Martha’s requested source of help. He’s given us richly all things that pertain to life and godliness for our enjoyment. People are not able to fully fulfill all of the genuine needs we experience.
Only the Lord is able to keep us in the manner deserving of our royal status.
Oh you, royal and loved of God, are you cumbered?
I think the entire issue with Martha, Martha was that she was burdened. He so desires for our yoke to be easy and our burden light. He didn’t need to leave Heaven for Himself. He didn’t need to experience human life and die a horrible tortured death for Himself.
In the end, it matters to Him that you are burdened.
Love doesn’t want you to be burdened.
Love wants to visit with you often.
Love knows your name and your existences meaning.
Love doesn’t see any fault with you.
Read it again: Martha was cumbered about with much serving and came to Him and wondering if He cared about her asked Him to make her sister help.
Cumbered: to drag a burden around, to be driven about mentally.
Much serving: not just serving, but much, many, mostly, largely and sore
Which will drag you down and make you wonder if anyone cares, if anyone loves you. Eventually an enemy will whisper a thought to you, even about your dearest Love, “Do they even notice? Do they care?”. And then you’ll want the Lord to prove His care by making the person stop being the source of your trouble.
But hear His response with a voice of Love,
“My dear love, Martha, dear Martha, your heart is being dragged around with a burden of doing too much. Doing, under the Father’s direction is good, but doing too much is not of the Father. Bring your sore heart to me, and I will give you access to the rest My Father gives. Come be with Me. It is a better place for your valuable heart.”