At a recent church get together, somehow the conversation turned to—I can’t remember what. But I seized the opportunity to drag myself into it.
Once upon a time, I told my politely listening friends, back when I was single and very involved in children’s ministry at my church, I bought a new Sunday dress.
At the time my hair was dark dark brown. I had a bit of a tan and thought a red dress would look nice.
It was a shirt dress. It fit well. It was comfortable. I paid decent money for it.
But I didn’t particularly like it, or feel pretty in it.
The color was a sort of tomato-red as opposed to any other red in the known universe that would have been more flattering.
Maybe that was it.
I wore it. About every third or fourth week.
One Sunday I and my tomato red dress popped into the Sunday school room.
I greeted my littles.
One of my little ones, in the sort of tone one might use facing tuna noodle casserole for the fourth night in a row, greeted me back with, “Oh. You’re wearing that dress again.”
The tomato dress went to the thrift shop the next morning.
I’d like to say the moral of the story is to trust your instincts. Never wear clothing you don’t feel pretty in. Or that makes small children sad.
But my next story demonstrates what makes this post a cautionary tale. Instincts aren’t always reliable.
Years back a church lady, talking about Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha, observed, “Mary might have chosen the better way, but I’d rather be on committees with Martha.”
That stuck with me, especially since I’ve fought a lifelong battle against being the sluggard in Proverbs. The one who’s supposed to go to the ant for instruction on hard work.
My instincts tell me to work harder, do more, serve better. Because no one likes sluggards, and most hard-working women aren’t even that fond of Mary types.
So when we hosted a retired missionary and his wife for dinner, I worked like crazy to make certain the house was clean and cozy, our meal the right balance of nourishing and attractive and tasty, and the beverages stayed filled.
But, meals for guests being what they are, the potatoes didn’t cook as fast as the veggies and the meat looked underdone and the serving platter had water spots and apparently the slotted spoon ran away with the dish.
Once my sweating self got everyone fed it was time to clear away, get the coffee going, provide tea for non-coffee drinkers, cut the dessert and polish more water spots off the forks.
My instincts kept prodding me. “No sluggards allowed. Make the Marthas of the world proud. Keep moving and provide for every possible need of your guests.”
At one point the missionary’s dear wife caught at my arm as I bustled my busy way back into the kitchen for the umpteenth time. “Anita, we’re fine. Just sit down and talk to me!”
But those blasted instincts keep pushing and I chugged to and fro, Martha personified, giving the guests everything but what they wanted.
They left that afternoon and I never made the time to sit and chat, and I never saw that dear woman again. She’s in heaven now, sitting at Jesus’ feet with Mary. AND Martha.
I am left with regrets.
And justified suspicion of my instincts. They were right about Tomato Dress. Wrong about the Importance of Being Martha.
I’ll probably never sort them out.
In the meantime I avoid clothing that makes small children sad, work hard at working hard and harder at investing in relationships. When I get it wrong, as I often will, I’ll rest assured that, ultimately, it will come out right in the wash.
Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay