“Martha” went to our church. I should actually say “was a member” because in the two years I’ve been here I’ve never actually seen her step foot in it. You see, Martha was 71 and grumpy. She never had a kind word, never said “please”. She was estranged from her children and everyone in her family except one sister who lived across the country. I think when Martha was a little girl her mother forgot to mention that if you hold your mouth a certain way for too long then it sticks in that position. Martha had a permanent frown on her face. Nobody liked her. She didn’t like anybody. She kept to herself unless she needed something.
Martha said she didn’t go to church because she was too ill. But yet you could find her driving and going to the grocery store 30 miles away. She was often seen at the local restaurant, eating by herself. Oh, she could get out. Everyone knew she didn’t go to church because she got into an argument with a previous pastor over what version of the bible should be used to teach a bible study. She noted that he was using a version she didn’t like, and told him so. And he disagreed. And she never came back.
That didn’t stop Martha from calling the church for favors. When her sister visited and needed a ride from the airport, she called the church and I answered the phone. She said in a gruff voice “This is Martha. I need to know who will pick up my sister Sunday morning at the airport.” All I could think was “The GALL of that woman! The least she could have done is ASK if there would be any way we could do it. Or say ‘please’ at the very least! And doesn’t she know church is Sunday morning?” I told her I would give the message to my husband. After all, he is the pastor. HE could tell her we’re not her taxi service.
Much to my surprise when he got home and I passed him the message he called Martha back and said he would be conducting services at that time but he would try to find someone who would be available. I asked him “Why are you doing that? She is so mean. We’re not her taxi service”. He just shrugged and said nothing.
Martha fell and broke her hip. She was in the rehab hospital for three weeks. She called the church one week before her release and DEMANDED we build her a wheelchair ramp. For free (she was on a very limited income). She demanded this be done within a week, so she would have it when she got home. I answered the phone on that one, too. I explained that my husband was in class all day and wouldn’t be home until late. Could he call her the next day to discuss this? Martha replied “NO. I need an answer NOW”. I said I was sorry but he could not be reached. She said “OK” and hung up on me. Then she called about 5 other people in the church. Who called me asking what to do. And I explained that I told her it would have to wait until the next day. And they rolled their eyes and said “That’s Martha”.
When Bryan got home that night he called her. He told her he wasn’t sure what could be done in the short timeframe, but he understood her need and would see what he could do. In one week he managed to stress over getting construction volunteers together and donations of supplies from various hardware stores. I asked him repeatedly “Why are you stressing out over it? Her expectations are absolutely atrocious!” He shrugged and said “it would be nice if it was there when she got home”. They didn’t quite make the deadline, but had it in the day after she got home.
Over the last two years Bryan has done many things for Martha. I never understood it. She was mean to him, rude to me and everyone else. Demanding. She insisted he bring her home communion when we had communion on the first Sunday of the month. He did, which irritated me because she COULD come to church to get it if she wanted, and she was the only one he brought it to so it was an inconvenience.
This last Monday Martha called again and I answered the phone again. The conversation went much like many of our others. I said “Hello” and she said “This is Martha. I want to know who will come pick me up from the hospital”. I said “Martha, Bryan is in teaching bible study right now and will be done in about 10 minutes. Can I have him call you?” She said “NO. I need to talk to him RIGHT NOW.” I suggested she call the church because that is where he was.
About 10 minutes later Bryan comes over to the house and tells me he is leaving to go get Martha. She apparently scraped her leg and needed stitches. Nothing serious, only four stitches. An ambulance took her to the hospital, but she needed a ride home. Again, I said “What is with her? She couldn’t ASK NICELY? And doesn’t she realize it’s 45 miles away. And we are using OUR gas and OUR car to do this? The least she could do is be NICE when asking for favors”. He smiled, chuckled, and said “Yea, she is pretty demanding, isn’t she?” I rolled my eyes. Off he went to get her.
Tuesday we went to Houston to deal with more house stuff. We got home yesterday (Wednesday) and there was a message from someone at the church on our machine. Martha had died suddenly in her house. Alone. She had called a woman whom she knew and said she wasn’t feeling well. The woman went to check on her and she was dead.
Bryan got the message and said “Oh, my God!” I mean, after all, he just saw her Monday and she was fine. He went on for a few minutes, doing other things. Then he sat in his chair and looked like he was reflecting. Finally he said to me “It’s amazing how God works. Just Monday when I picked Martha up we had a good talk. She actually thanked me for being nice to her. She said she wanted to come to church on Sunday to hear me preach”.
You see, Bryan is about 2 million steps ahead of me in his Christian walk. He saw an old woman who needed help. Who was difficult, but was a person with needs just like everyone else. Through his kindness he was ministering to her. Not in a lecture sort of way, but by example. How Christians SHOULD minister. And here I was “tisk, tisking” her because of her grumpiness and rudeness. I should know that the Golden rule doesn’t say “Do unto others…if they are nice”.
He is an amazing man. This is why HE is the minister and I am not. I am blessed that my daughter will have him as an example.