Christmas vacation has come and gone and change is upon me. It’s the moment when I morph from “Vacation Me” into “Regular Me” and take on all the uptight, flustered crazy that comes with it.
Allow me to introduce myself(s). I’m Vacation Me, with a demeanor so laid back I make even the most relaxed person look neurotic. Vacation Me doesn’t care if the house is clean. We’ll get to it eventually. Time for another board game. Let’s build a snowman or go on a spontaneous adventure. The space I foster during this reign is a wonderful paradise where the dishes pile up in the sink while I get lost in a good book. The laundry goes unfolded while I play Mario Kart with my family. Chocolate is consumed and the scale goes missing. Vacation Me throws bedtimes out the window, choosing instead to stay up later listening to my oldest tell jokes or watching my youngest draw ninjas and dinosaurs. Conversations with my husband take on a wonderfully relaxed pace, and revolve around more than the family’s weekly extracurricular schedule and who is picking up the kids after school.
The calendar reminders that spell out “school resumes” and “back to work” taunt Vacation Me with responsibilities of a wife, mom, writer, taxi driver, cook, bookkeeper, and every other obligation that clamors for my attention during those busy non-Vacation Me days.
That’s when Regular Me emerges, and it’s not a pretty picture.
Regular Me is a hot mess who lives in a constant state of fussiness. It’s the place where I am constantly running behind and the to-do lists never get done. Regular Me lashes out in frustration as my children turn into creatures who can’t find their shoes and tattle on each other like it’s going out of style. The calendar fills up. The kitchen sink fills up. Those quality moments with my family that flowed in abundance during vacation mode can regrettably seem bothersome at the end of a long day.
The abrupt back and forth between these two versions of myself is downright exhausting. It reminds me of a pair of sisters in Luke 10. The passage describes a woman named Martha, a friend of Jesus who opens her home to him and his disciples. No doubt she has prepared a fine meal for this unexpected company, which pairs nicely with stress, frustration, and the obsessive drive to make the dinner presentation “just so.” Things reach their tipping point when Martha realizes her sister, Mary, has pulled up a seat beside Jesus in the living room and abandoned Martha in the kitchen.
Martha’s frustration bubbles to the surface in Luke 10:40 when she blurts out, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” A woman bold enough to shout at the Son of God surely must have had less filtered thoughts running through her head: This spinach and artichoke dip won’t make itself. The plates won’t magically appear on the table. All the extra touches I’ve added to make your visit memorable won’t come to fruition if my sister doesn’t get up and help me make them happen.
It’s no wonder that “Regular Me” Martha is at odds with her “Vacation Me” sister, Mary. While Martha frets about putting a meal together for 13 unexpected guests, Mary puts those responsibilities on the back burner and chooses to listen to Jesus’ teachings instead. It initially appears as if Martha is miffed with her sister, but I wonder if this situation it’s less about one sister irritating the other and more about one woman at battle with herself.
Jesus seems to sense this tension. Knowing Martha’s heart and her natural tendency towards detailed living, Jesus calms her down when He says “Martha, Martha…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.”
I’m always humbled at how Jesus diffuses chaos with calm. He understood and acknowledged the tension between Martha and Mary’s viewpoints, but didn’t let their behaviors go unchecked. Whether you’re stressed out in the kitchen, or resting at Jesus’ feet, or floundering somewhere in the middle, he offers us the same courtesy. Here’s how we can apply these sisters’ lessons to our lives:
- We can welcome Jesus. Martha invited Jesus into her home and gave him the guest of honor spot. Is Jesus welcome in your home? My Bible used to lay on a table near my bed. It turned out to be an inconvenient spot because when I crawl into bed I want to sleep! It now sits on a table in my living room and reminds me to read it more frequently.
- We can avoid either/or living. “Would you rather spend quality time with your kids, or have a clean house?” This brand of thinking tricks us into believing a messy house indicates good parenting while a clean house must be a sign of an obsessed housekeeper who neglects her children’s well-being. The “either/or” in the above statement also lets us believe those are the only two options available. A clean and organized house is a good thing. Enjoying your children is a good thing. Each has its place in Jesus-centered living. He’ll help us determine the timetable.
- Jesus keeps a short list. The only person dictating the to-do list to Martha was Martha. Jesus told her the most important detail of her day was already sitting in her living room. The rest of her responsibilities could wait a few minutes. Jesus calls us to love him and love others, and we can only do that by spending time with him.
We don’t have to live at odds with different versions of ourselves, or each other. Just as there is a time to fulfill our responsibilities, there’s also a place to pull up a seat at Jesus’ feet. He’ll help us figure out the difference between the two.