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The Martha Syndrome

She went into high gear planning the menu, scrubbing, mopping, dusting, tidying. Of course, there are invitations to send, shopping to do, food to prepare…the list seemingly endless. Party planning by a Stress Junkie! Can't you relate?

“Martha, Martha”, He said. How many times have we Stress Junkies been a Martha?To set the scene, and for those who may not know the story, Martha and Mary were sisters. They had a brother named Lazarus. Now Martha and Mary have a house in Bethany near Jerusalem, and their brother has invited some friends over for dinner. One of the friends is an important guy, a real man of the hour back then – his name is Jesus. He comes from a small town, his father was just a carpenter, his mother got pregnant before she was married, but this man has made a name for himself. Anyone who’s anyone wants to talk to him, listen to him, touch him, or be touched by him. If Today in Hollywood was on TV back then, he’d have the whole show every night!So Martha and Mary are having company…I mean to say, a PARTY. Because Jesus always travels with his twelve closest friends, so that makes sixteen for dinner. Plus, Martha and Mary just HAVE TO invite some of their friends and neighbors just so everyone will see who they rub elbows with. So much to do, so much to do! Big party to plan, prep and cook for. In those days, you couldn’t just order out or call the caterers; you had to do it all. The term potluck supper wasn't even coined yet! Water didn't come into the house, bread wasn't sold at the market. In fact, the grain had to be ground for the flour, the water had to be carried from the well, and the oven ran on wood and grasses that the women gathered. As for housekeeping, there were no companies like Merry Maid or Molly Maid. There was just Martha Maid and Mary Maid. Now for those of you who don’t know Jesus personally, imagine the likes of Brad Pitt, Mother Teresa, Ronald Regan and Billy Graham ALL coming to your house at the same time - and still you haven’t even scratched the surface of this man Jesus. To Stress Junkies like us, we know the routine for Martha. As soon as she learned that Jesus was coming, she went into high gear planning the menu, scrubbing, mopping, dusting, tidying. Of course, there are invitations to send, shopping to do, food to prepare…the list seemingly endless. And why not, she’s the older sister, the practical one, the responsible one. It’s what she does. The big day arrives, and we can picture the house…it’s clean, fresh and orderly with sunlight streaming through the windows. There’s bowls of snack food, fruit and flowers out and about, cool drinks and the smell of delicious foods coming from the kitchen. Guests begin to arrive and who’s there to greet them? Little sister, Mary – the one who’s chosen to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen. The one who most likely sits among the guests at all the parties. Sure, she did a little prep work this morning…at her sister Martha’s insistence. But now, the party has begun, and she’s choosing the “one thing”, the “good thing” as Jesus later puts it. Martha’s in the kitchen. She slaves away over hot pots in a hot room. She sets the table, brings out trays of food, refills glasses…Mary sits at the feet of the guest of honor, listening, laughing. She’s enjoying the time. Martha, well, she finally loses it. She complains to Jesus that Mary should come and help her. Jesus responds, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things…” - Luke 10:41 NKJ So she is:

1. Worried (careful – in the KJ)

2. Troubled (bothered – NASB, upset – NIV)

3. About MANY things

Picture this, you’ve been killing yourself for days, everyone is in YOUR house, eating YOUR food, and drinking YOUR wine. This party is all about Jesus, and here he is, he’s putting YOU on the carpet for making sure everything is perfect? And in front of EVERYONE – his friends, your friends, your sister! WOW!And get this part, more than likely Jesus is not limiting his observation to just this day and time. He says “many things”. He’s knows Martha has a bigger problem. One that leaves her helplessly devoted to cooking, cleaning, serving, worrying, hurrying, and troubled. Martha, my dear friends, was a Stress Junkie! Martha could very well be the very first recorded Stress Junkie, proving that we are not the product of a fast society. We are a product of ourselves, our personality, our decisions; for if Martha, who lived two thousand years ago, was Type A, then there’s no blaming society for our problem.

We all know the symptoms. I mean, when was the last time that you sat and enjoyed a party at your house? Was there EVER a time? When was the last time you had a party or even guests for dinner that you didn’t pull out ALL your cookbooks to find something “special” to make? Ever? About that housekeeping, do you really think people are checking the corners, the baseboards, and inside the cabinets for dirt when they're at your house? I know what you're, they don't check. And the reason they don't check is because they KNOW when they come to my house, it's clean. Believe me, guests may not notice what I do to prepare, but sure as hell, they'd notice if I DIDN'T do something. I believe that was Martha's dilemma as well. She really really wanted to hang out with Jesus and the guests like her sister. In Martha's mind, if Mary had helped her, then maybe she'd have had the time to sit down and relax. Maybe so...but based on Jesus' take on her situation, probably wouldn't matter. Mary's help would just free Martha's time to go handle some other little detail. So, what do we do with Martha? What do we do with ourselves? Should we be more like Mary? Can we be? There's no doubt that if you're reading this, you're the practical sister. You're the one who's easily distracted by many things that in your mind, HAVE to get done. Everyday tasks, household chores, work, kids, school, husband, church, PTA, soccer games, birthday parties, and so on and so on and so on...

These things have to get done, right? And if not by you, then...frankly, by whom? The answer is simpler said, than achieved. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to learn how to ride without training wheels? What skill did you need to master? You also need it to roller skate, ice skate, walk a tight rope, actually, you need it just to stand up. It's called BALANCE. We Stress Junkies need to learn how to strike a balance between what needs to get done, and what HAS to be done. We need to take a few minutes out of each day to just stand still. That's right STAND STILL and pause. We need to take a moment or two out of every day to reflect on what's really important. That's all Jesus was saying to Martha. He wasn't bashing her for serving them, he was advising her to set priorities and take the needed time out to enjoy "one good thing", before her time was past. Stress Junkies are notorious for always looking for what's next, rather than what's happening right now. Stop and smell the roses they say, and why not? Why not stop, smell the roses, and a writer friend so eloquently put it...while you're there, deadhead the spent blooms, pull a few weeds, and add some fertilizer. Strike a balance! Or at least for startersArticle Search, admit one's needed and start there.

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Linda Lullie is the creator of, a website for the Type A personalities of the world. She is also co-owner of Inspired 2 Design, LLC – a full service Advertising design & production company specializing in small business marketing. Visit them at

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