He snatched open the door with eyes twinkling up at me. “Hi, Mom!” he smiled before leaning in for the hug and kiss we customarily shared at the back door.
“Hey, Handsome!” I returned, moving up the stairs toward the kitchen.
He pushed passed me excitedly. “Can you come see something?”
“Yes,” I said, knowing that there was a video game move I was not going to understand on the horizon. I smiled when the folded construction paper was thrust proudly my way. I knew exactly what this was: the school-made Mother’s Day card. And I was all for it after another long day at work.
“Hi Mom,” the card began in that experimental cursive third graders use. “Happy Mother’s Day. I love you more than anything because you’re hard working, you have to wake up in the early morning, and you pay our bills…” I stopped reading. I pulled his shoulders toward me, kissing again that sweaty forehead and told him that I loved him so much.
He rushed to his father’s side, hopped in the chair he must have been sitting in when I knocked on the door, and picked up the video game controller. I threw my coat over the back of the couch and headed to my bedroom.
“You pay our bills.” I kept replaying those words on a loop in my head until I realized what was wrong. “My son’s affection for me is rooted in him having heat or running water?” I questioned with snark. There were no overtly gushy feelings of adoration. “You’re the bill-paying mama, Marilyn!” I said to myself, and I allowed shame to wash over me because it was my fault for working so much, leaving before he woke up and returning when it was too late to cook dinner.
When I first reread the story of Martha and Mary from Luke 10 earlier this month, I thought God was rebuking me for being a Martha, for being so busy all the time. I thought He was telling me that my relationship with Him (and others) needed some serious work. In fact, I kept receiving what I believed to be validation all week long. What I forgot was that Satan was right there at bible study and prayer time, too, looking for a way to weasel his way into my consciousness.
“You’re a bad principal,” he began. “You’re a bad friend and wife. You’re an even worse mother, and that’s why your son talked about bills in his Mother’s Day card to you.” I internalized those messages, and in true Marilyn fashion, I set about trying to determine how best to fix it. For every “solution” I contemplated, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “No.”
“You expect me to do nothing?” I asked full of exasperation.
“Yes, do nothing more than what I have already told you to do.” He had given me a task. I heard Him clearly, but I did not trust that it was enough. I was used to doing so much more.
“Yes, that’s it.”
I remembered the assignment from 2 Kings 3: “Make this valley full of ditches.” And I remembered the miracle that would follow obedience: “You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water.” I remembered that I “should not add to the word which [He] commands [me], nor take from it” (Deuteronomy 4: 2). I remembered that Jesus expects service from his children, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10: 45).
I had obviously missed something crucial in my Martha and Mary story review. I had glossed over something fundamental. I had to go back to reread. There it was at the very beginning of the story in Luke 10: 38: “a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.” For the first time in two weeks, I felt peace wash over me. I realized that although God was correcting me, He was also acknowledging how much I was doing right. First and foremost, He is welcome in my home!
Martha’s acts of service were not wrong. In fact, they illustrated her taking seriously the call to be hospitable. At issue was her prioritization of those acts of service when Jesus Himself was speaking. She was a woman not afraid to host the “radical” Jesus. The same Jesus religious leaders plotted to murder, she willingly hosted in her own home. She rolled out the proverbial red carpet for Him. But she did get distracted, Friend, forgetting that His presence warranted a reverence and attentiveness that would pull her out of the kitchen and down toward His feet like her sister Mary.
I woke up this morning with a new appreciation for my son’s words, and I did not feel so bad anymore about the “you pay our bills” statement. I went into the living room at the beckoning of our Father. I saw the little blue folded construction paper card lying on the desk. I grabbed it and brought it with me to the couch. My first Mother’s Day message of the day. I opened it and read it again this time to the end. And guess what, Friend? There it was all along. The best confirmation I could have ever received on this Mother’s Day. The last sentence of his card, the sentence God wanted me to read today: “That’s why I love you more than anything besides God.” My baby loves God, Friend! He loves God “more than anything.” If I never do anything else good or right in my life or as his mother, I know that I taught him, told him, and demonstrated to Him that in this house we love God.
And I remember the words of Jesus to Martha and know that they, too, apply to our family:
“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 42).