I struggle with a ‘Martha complex’.
What I’m referring to is this Bible Story.
If you’re lazy to click on the link to read the 2 paragraphs of the story (yes, shade is present) – basically it’s when Jesus visits Martha and Mary, but Martha gets bogged down in the presentation of the house instead of focusing on the presence of the house. Martha then complains to Jesus saying ‘see I’m so hardworking while Mary’s just sitting at your feet, it’s so unfair’ and Jesus is like ‘actually Mary’s got her priorities right, and she’s blessed because of it’.
Therefore, I coin the ‘Martha complex’ as when I’m doing the work and I become whiny and self-righteous because I see myself as the only person doing the hard-work.
Or when I’m focusing on the task that I forget the ‘why’ behind the what I’m doing – it’s not for me, but I do what I do for God and for people.
I have always believed that the church is for those outside the church, which means that you, as the church, have to be for those outside the church. So it makes sense that if you do want to work in ministry – a business of peoeple – you have to be utterly selfless.
My ‘Martha complex’ is triggered when I lose focus on what’s important, and what is important is not me but those outside the church. And perhaps what’s worst about my ‘Martha complex’ is that I pent up my anger and frustrations and spiral down a hidden emotional hole.
God is good in that He takes me out of the ‘Martha hole’ before it gets serious. Whether or not that I listen to Him all the time is another matter.
He sends me reminders through moments and people that re-shifts my perspective of why I do what I’m doing.
One of those moments is getting the opportunity to shadow/host Pastor Brooke on a Sunday morning.
I woke up the earliest that I ever did in LA to get Blue Bottle coffee. And most of the shadowing was honestly really mundane, it consisted of mostly waiting on Pastor Brooke with a bottle of water as she dashed around. I also messed up plenty of times, which is really hard on me when I was messing up on simple tasks like standing in the right spot, speaking out of turn, or not knowing whether to text or call.
By the end of the second morning service, ‘Martha complex’ was starting to really hunker down on my confidence, and my feelings of inadequacy and humiliation were clouding my joy. Honestly, I remember sitting in the second service, looking forward to the morning services to be over so I could just try to cry in my apartment from my failure to wait on someone, feel inadequate for being unable to cry, take a nap, and get through the rest of the Sunday.
But before I left for lunch, Pastor Brooke hosted the baptism meetup. It was looking like no one would attend. But someone showed up.
He was getting baptised that evening already, yet he decided to show up to talk to a pastor about it. Pastor Brooke asked him why he was getting baptised. He said it was because Mosaic changed his life, and he wanted to do something in return and show his kids that he has changed. Pastor Brooke said that’s awesome, but what about Jesus?
As they continued talking, it turns out he’s grown up Catholic his entire life and he’s always known about Jesus. While he’s been changed through coming to Mosaic for a few weeks, Pastor Brooke unearthed the revelation that he’s never actually admitted and accepted Jesus into his heart.
Pastor Brooke asked if he would like to do that in that moment. He said yes.
She prayed for him, and asked me to join in. And when we all said amen, he was crying. I was so humbled – I did nothing, said nothing, but I got to witness the moment in his eyes of when Jesus moved his religion into a relationship with Him.
This moment is exactly what Jesus meant by ‘this is more important’.
Mary just sat by Jesus’ feet and paid attention, and Jesus deemed Mary’s actions more important than Martha’s attention to the feast she was preparing.
How much you prepare would not matter at all if you’re not present for the moments with the people who you’ve been preparing for.
Another moment I think of is when 3-4 of us were tasked with going to the Mosaic warehouse again. We just got the instructions that Drew would meet us at the warehouse with Big White bright and early in the morning. Big White is the only pickup truck that Mosaic owns. It’s also not that big.
After spending hours in a dusty warehouse looking for things while re-organising the things Mosaic has accumulated over the many years, the last thing I wanted to do was drive. Yet we had to, we drove back and forth between locations in Pasadena.
And at the end of this summary of a long day, Drew needed to go to Mosaic Venice to help with setup. But he couldn’t drive Big White because they still needed it at Pasadena.
The drive from Pasadena to Venice is roughly 27 miles/43km. It was 4pm and rush hour. I did not want to drive, but something (God) prompted me to open up my driving skills, my time and my car that has no aux cord to a complete stranger for a drive that could take too long for our comfort.
The hour-long car ride would be one of my favourite conversations I’ve ever had in LA. While I did my fair bit of sharing, because a conversation is a two-way street, I felt like God wanted me to hear Drew’s story.
I was so encouraged and humbled by was Drew’s story. From a life where he felt that he had no purpose, no friends and no future, Jesus met him where he was and brought him to where he is now.
People like him that reminded me why I flew halfway across the world to serve this church.
His story had many twists and turns before he even got to the part where he finally tried out a church (after years!), and then committed to Mosaic, and then finally served on the Broadcast team, and committed his life to Jesus , and got baptised, and witnessed so many of his friends go through that same story arc, and to where he is now.
God’s patience and perseverance was in every word he said, and in the way Drew now pursues people outside of the church.
By the time we got to Venice, he wanted to treat me to Blue Bottle because I drove him all the way. But to add the cherry on top of the already amazing time I shared with him, he and I got my coffee for free because the barista gave me almond milk instead of oat milk. Instead, Drew gave me a free blue bottle pin to commemorate our friendship.
There usually are signs when God’s trying to pull me out of my task-oriented frustrations. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at listening. But I’m a stubborn human and sometimes it takes a total meltdown before I get back up.
The week of July 4th was the worst week of LA, without a doubt. As context, July 4th is Mosaic’s biggest event of the year, and yet proper execution for the event only formally started 2 days before.
I know that I can adapt to any situation I’m placed in and have handled a lot of stress before. But the time crunch – added onto the lack of sleep and not having a day off for almost 2 weeks, along with the stress from the pastors and the other interns – was weighing on me mentally and physically. I suffer from mild back pains, and usually I keep it at bay with enough rest, but this week stretched my physical limits.
After the picnic on July 4th, I was so spent. There was actually another event at night that we were encouraged to go, so I showed up, but as soon as I found out it was an entrance fee on top of paying for your own tacos that were $3 each – I was done. I had to pay for my BBQ lunch at the picnic I was serving at, and now I had to pay more.
(Remember, this is the ‘Martha complex’ where I lose sight of the big picture. But also I had a few grievances about this particular money issue that I’d rather talk privately about.)
I spent the night with the boy, and it was a restful night of $1 tacos, the best plantains on earth, and fireworks on top of a hill somewhere in Glendale. I even got home before midnight. We spent $15 between the 2 of us.
Most interns had July 5th off, but because equipment returns were a thing, Griffin and I did not. We already spent 5 hours on July 3rd together on a truck (which were great, Griffin’s awesome); and now we had another 5 hours to go after a long week. Griffin was going delirious, and I was beaten down. We were both not in a space to encourage each other at all.
I took a nap after the returns. However, I woke up even more tired than before, and my back started throbbing from the tiredness, the physical labour of the past few days, and sitting in a truck. But because there was an intern outing to watch Spiderman (RIP Sony), I hauled my butt out of the apartment.
The back pains got worse on our drive to the theatre. It didn’t help that we were running late, and I got even more stressed thinking about the consequences of being late when it wasn’t my fault. And it didn’t help at all that I was in a happy car, blasting music, and one of the interns tried to hug me when I was trying to hold my anger together (Sidenote: I don’t mind being hugged to be comforted, but I’m hate being touched when I am seething with anger).
We got to the movie theatre on time by the miraculous driving of Dallas. But my backaches were killing me, and as soon as Ryan asked me if I was okay, I burst and left the theatre.
As I was sitting on a very comfortable stoop and crying my eyes out for all of Pasadena to see, I checked in with myself, only to realise I hadn’t checked in with myself all week. I got so Martha-ed up, that I forgot about myself. Pastor Brooke came at the moment I calmed myself down for like 5 seconds, and as I explained what was going on, the waterworks started again.
Anyway, this long story ends on a funny note. I watched the movie because I needed a break from this world anyway. But during the plane turbulence scene, the earthquake happened. Half the theatre got up to run, meanwhile, my brain was lagging because of the previous emotional breakdown so I registered that moment as a 4D-scene instead of an actual natural disaster. Plus, my body was pretty paralysed from my back, so I stayed seated comfortably.
My dad was way more concerned than I was.
After the movie, I went home and immediately slept. Pastor Brooke gave me the next day off, and I savoured it. I journaled, I rested, I recovered. And I promised myself to not make that same mistake ever again.
Near the end of the internship, I felt another emotional breakdown coming along from the ‘Martha Complex’. But as soon as I sensed it, I withdrew myself from the world. I drove up the Hills because there isn’t phone signal up there, and something that always comforted me when I was in NYC was a skyline view.
I found a lookout and camped out there for about 20 minutes until the sun completely set over LA. I checked in with myself and with God, and talked to him about all that was happening. I breathed.
Instead of worrying into the details of doing what I had to do before I left LA, I enjoyed God’s creation and His peaceful company.