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 chosenthe good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
God bless you Martha Stewart. You have shown thousands – if not millions – of Americans how to host the perfect gathering for any and every occasion. The right table settings, the right decorations, the right ambience, the right food… everything prepared to glorious perfection! The apéritifs must be stunning (swirls of canned cheese heaped on crackers and celery won’t do for Martha, no matter how beautiful the layers). The meal must be memorable, leaving a lasting impression on all who are invited to the soirée.
The gorgeous feast causes an audible gasp of delight (as well as plenty of “oohs” and “ahhs”) from the appreciative and hungry guests. (Not too hungry, mind you. The hors d’oeuvres should serve to curb any hunger pangs while whetting the appetite for the meal to come).
The Biblical Martha was, in some ways, like Martha Stewart (except for the whole insider trading prison sentence business). Well… in one way. The Biblical Martha was a perfectionist. She had guests to feed. She had Jesus in her home! And everything had to be just right.
The napkins weren’t going to fold themselves. The hand-rolled croissants still needed baking. The beef bourguignon was in danger of overcooking and the quiche was going to fall if it wasn’t served soon. (Boy, I really have overdone this French cooking theme, haven’t I?)
And where is her sister Mary? She is sitting at the feet of the guest of honor, reveling in His company, soaking in His words. Can you picture the scene? Martha stomps into the room, hands on hips, hair disheveled, apron askew and flour-coated, face contorted with stress. “I am in the kitchen, slaving away, and here you are, having a grand time! Do you think the Tarte Normande is going to bake itself? Come help me! Jesus, tell her to get in here and give me a hand!”
Now picture Jesus, a slight smile on His face, calmly telling Martha that her serving is wonderful, a good thing, but something more important than food – no matter how fine the delicacy – is being served here tonight.
If you struggle with perfectionism, believing everything has to be just right or it will all be ruined, relax. Don’t get stressed. Don’t be anxious. At the end of the evening, the meal will be devoured. The bouillabaisse gone, the bowl that once contained the coq au vin now holding a mere carrot slice lying in a thin scrim of broth on the bottom. The once perfectly folded linen napkins will be a stained crumpled mess. All that is left will be a wonderful memory. And the washing up.
It is far better to focus on real substance, and that is found at the feet of Jesus. Put your focus on Him. Not on being stunning. Not on being perfect. The real blessing comes from the presence of the Lord, not from the accoutrements that decorate the evening.
You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to appear perfect. Be authentic. Relax. All you have to do is love. And put God first in all things.
Canned cheese squirted atop crackers on a paper plate will do just fine. Call it fromage dans une boîte sur un craquelin if you must.