How to Overcome the Martha Complex
Amy woke up feeling like she should have slept with her running shoes on. How would she ever get everything done today? She had the paper plates to pick up for the baby shower she was co-hosting on Saturday. While she was out, she needed to pick up celery and onions. Of all the nights she could have chosen to take the McCabes dinner, WHY had she signed up for tonight? Getting dinner made and delivered before soccer practice at four would require a herculean effort. Then there was the birthday cake for Jake’s birthday. If she was going to get it ready before tomorrow afternoon, it at least had to be baked today so that it would be cool enough to decorate in the morning. She thought to herself, “Maybe I can do that tonight after the kids are in bed?”
Sound familiar? Haven’t we all had days like that? Sometimes there is no way to avoid them, but when they become a regular event, isn’t it time to re-evaluate? Most of the activity we fill our time with can be labeled as “service”, the baby shower, dinner for a friend, birthday parties. We do them because we want our loved ones to know that they are, well… loved.
The re-evaluation needs to come, when we find ourselves defining life in the following terms: burned out, overwhelmed, depressed, unhappy, hopeless, anxious, angry, and resentful. What causes these feelings? Could it be that we are no longer functioning out of genuine love? Let’s consider three ways that we can function wrongly. If this is an issue for you, I encourage you to take the time to dig deeper to find the root idols at work in your heart.
It is easy for people, especially stay-at-home moms, to feel somewhat invisible. Most of our work is done under the radar and out of sight. Have you ever thought about how rarely we take note of a clean bathroom, but it is always noticed when it’s dirty? Often, what we DO goes unseen. In such situations, it is easy to feel unimportant. So, we tend to be drawn to those projects and activities where our DOING is seen so that we feel productive and valuable. Of course, there is nothing wrong with hosting a shower or organizing an event. It is only a problem when we wrap our worth up in our DOING these things.
The remedy: Remember that our worth is one hundred percent perfect in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). We don’t need to validate ourselves. It’s a good thing too, because on our own, we are completely incapable!
Sometimes we can feel like such a failure in one area of our life, that it seems easier to just “escape” to something else where outward success is more easily seen. Maybe it is a hard relationship: a disinterested husband or challenging child. Whatever, it is just easier to busy yourself with a committee at church or sign up to be team mom. We begin to feel that if we can prove our self in this project, it somehow translates that things are okay in other areas. Avoidance will never fix the problems we have. In fact, they will only get worse.
The remedy: God knows life is messy. He knew about it before we existed. He has provided our justification (Romans 5:1). We cannot justify ourselves. Only Jesus justifies us. As we dwell on that truth our hearts will be set right for dealing with the challenges from the right perspective.
This last area is closely linked to the first two. We can involve ourselves in projects and activities out of fear. We may be afraid that someday we will need help and have no one around. We respond to this concern by keeping ourselves involved in other’s lives, actively looking for ways to help out or serve so that one day when we need help, they will hopefully remember all that we’ve done for them. This really at its core, is an attempt to take matters into our own hands.
The remedy: Remember who holds the ocean in his hands. When we are in Christ, he has us covered (Col. 3:3). We don’t have to fear the future (Matthew 6:25-34).
When we find our validation, our justification and our protection in God alone, first and foremost, then can truly love and serve others. Our doing becomes a joyous “Thank you!” to God for all the riches we have in Him. This is how we can overcome the Martha Complex.