During this season of Lent, I have been
trying failing trying to start each morning with a short Bible reading and reflection. One that really hit me was Luke 10: 38-42, when Jesus Visits Mary and Martha.
The story (as I see it) goes something like this: Jesus and his friends are invited into the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary. Jesus takes a load off and Mary sits at his feet, waiting to hear what he has to say. Martha, on the other hand, is flying around the house, frantically cleaning and cooking and most likely muttering expletives under her breath.
The fact that Mary isn’t lifting a finger really starts to piss her off, and Martha says to Jesus: “Umm, excuse me Jesus, can you please light a fire under my sister, because this is crap. I still need to WetSwift the bathroom, and the taco dip isn’t going to make itself.”
Jesus says, “Martha, Girl, you need to RE-LAX. Sit down, open the wine and the bag of Tostitos and let’s get this party started.”
Ok, what he really said:
Martha, Martha you are worried and troubled over so many things, but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, and that will not be taken away.
Can’t you just see Mary smirking? Jesus likes me more than you, Nanana-poo-poo!
Since our move a few weeks ago, I have turned into a major Martha. My brain feels jacked up on Coke and Pixie Stix while my body bounces around the house, frenetically “doing” but accomplishing nothing.
I wonder what was behind Martha’s “doing,” why she felt the need for everything to be perfect. For me, it’s Mommy Guilt. I feel guilty for putting the girls in a new house and school mid-year, so I am going to do WHATEVER IT TAKES TO HELP THEM FORGET ITS ACTUALLY HAPPENING. I stood for hours on Emma’s bed sticking glow in the dark constellations on her ceiling. When they climb into the car after school looking sullen and sad, my heart breaks. So I try and fix it (aka. stuff their feelings) with fro yo or cupcakes or a new book. I decorated their bathroom with a tulip border mural, and bought Phoebe a matching duvet cover that I will take out of the package as soon as I find the damn iron. As if maybe an ironed duvet cover will make her say, ‘Well alright! Who cares that I am in a new school with no friends? I have an ironed duvet cover. I have ARRIVED.”
But just as Coke-Pixie Stix bender always ends in a crash, so does a Control Bender. The I Can Fix Everything and Make Everyone Happy routine usually ends when everything falls apart. At once. And then catches on fire.
The unraveling began on Tuesday at midnight, when, 4 hours before Phil had to be on a plane to Boston, our ancient radiator in our 110 year old house decided it had worked hard enough. Water, water, everywhere. Sometimes, there are just not enough towels.
After dropping the kids off at school and getting honked at by 50 cars for screwing up in the car line
again, I waited for the plumber and the Peapod grocery order Phil had placed to “help out.” I was so engrossed in my radiator water management that I didn’t even look in the grocery bags until the delivery guy had left.
We don’t drink milk.
While I contemplated buying an extra dairy fridge off Craigslist, my sister-in-law Trisha stopped by. We chatted for a few and then, after complimenting her new car, I sent her on her way with two gallons of milk and some coffee creamer. When I returned 30 minutes later with my sullen children, the plumber was in the driveway and Trisha was walking down the street. Her new car had broken down around the corner. My first thought was, Oh man that milk is gonna stink.
While Trisha called a tow truck and the girls ran around me in circles shrieking, the plumber -let’s call him Frank- explained my radiator situation. In detail. Lots of detail. My brain was starting to short circuit. In an attempt to demonstrate how a valve works, Frank kept squeezing my bicep.
For the record, I am a “this is my box” personal space kinda girl. I could see Frank’s mouth moving, but I could barely hear his voice over the one in my head:
“The valve of a radiator blah blah blah: EXPAND, CONTRACT” (Bicep squeeze).
You just touched my arm.
“So the water flow depends on blah blah valve blah EXPAND, CONTRACT” (Bicep squeeze)
You touched it again.
“So the valve is what determines if you have FLOW or NO FLOW” (Bicep squeeze).
Three times now.
While I retained nothing about radiators, I got through the interaction without cold cocking Frank. Trisha returned to her car of rotting dairy products, and the kids and I went to the park. Jesus should have told Martha to take a walk. Nature helps get your head out of your ass.
While putting the kids to bed after a nutritious dinner of bagels and apple sauce, I sat down on Emma’s bed: “Hey Em, you know how you said you were nervous about the Terra Nova test? Well I emailed your teacher and she said that you are doing great and that…”
“Mom! Why are you bringing that up NOW? I wasn’t even thinking about it and now I AM.”
“Oh…I’m sorry….I just thought that…”
“Parents just don’t get it.”
That stung, I’ll admit. But I didn’t get it…she was right. She didn’t need me to fix it. She just needed me to listen.
Lying in bed that night, I thought about Martha and felt compassion for her. She thinks she’s doing the right thing, that caring for others is how she shows her love. Someone has to vacuum the dog hair off the couch and make sure the grill has propane. But when you become, as the reading says, “distracted with all the serving,” you start to miss the point. You can’t really be with the people you love if you are always in your head.
Jesus didn’t want Martha to be The Perfect Hostess – he just wanted Martha. And my kids don’t want The Perfect Mom – they just want me. Which I think for many of us is a hard concept to grasp. That we are exactly what our kids need just as we are. No bells, no whistles, no magic cape or fairy wand necessary. Just us.
As I put away all the towels used in the Great Radiator Flood of 2014, I found the iron in the closet.
And for now, that’s where it will stay.