For as long as time, humans have shared meals to celebrate the sacred and the mundane.
Baptists have potlucks for any event where people gather. Italians have the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas eve. We celebrate summer with cookouts on Memorial Day and Labor Day. But it seems to me that we have lost both the practice and the value of simply sharing a meal.
I recently went to the hospital to welcome a friend’s brand new granddaughter. After snuggling the pink baby, she and her husband met me at Applebee’s to share a meal and process the wondrous yet challenging reality of welcoming a first grandchild in to their life. Our conversation meandered across topics, from church life, to the supreme court decision around gay marriage, to catching up on the details of our children’s lives. We don’t agree on every topic and some were harder to talk about than others, but we all came away blessed and connected. As we headed back to our cars, I reflected that there are few people with whom I can cover this depth and breadth of conversation. Then I realized we have been practicing this sharing of life for over a decade. We didn’t start here, this has been cultivated over time.
Last night we shared a meal with a couple we love dearly. Over a simple meal, a fire on a cool fall evening, and a killer desert we covered topics wide and deep. We laughed, we cried, we talked about difficult things. This feeds my soul. We know each other better now and we will continue to develop this friendship over time. To stand together in life and ministry. To walk together through difficult times, and to commit to sharing life. This is the stuff of friendship.
We seem to live in an age where we elevate the way things look over what they actually are. We Facebook and Instagram perfect pictures of our families and homes, plan Pintrest worthy events, and count up the number of likes and comments to determine our value. But seriously, where is the heart in that? Don’t get me wrong. I love social media, it can connect us in ways that are meaningful and rich, but the pictures and posts are not the stuff of life. Shared meals, shared laughs, shared tears, and shared lives are the things that really impact us over time. People matter, and our connections to others need to be cultivated and nurtured in order for them to grow.
I’ve been thinking about our journey to this place and remembering back to when we first determined that gathering people for a meal would be a value in our home. In our first few attempts it did not go well. We would gather, and eat, but then not really know what to do next. More often than not, tension and frustration between couples would surface and we did not really know what to do. So, we bought board games. After we ate, when we didn’t know what to do next, we offered a collection of board games. We played Scattagories with lots of friends over the years, cards with some… we did have an unfortunate experience with dear friends who thought Cribbage involved too much math and don’t even get me started on the Scrabble debacle of 2003 (I actually think both of these incidents were the same friends). We determined to keep at it, and to keep looking for ways to make it work.
There are some things we’ve learned along the way…
It’s not a performance. One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned about hospitality was from my friend Warren. We were sharing Easter dinner with their family, six kids, two husbands a turkey, a ham, and a flurry of activity. I was loosing my cool, stressing over the details and Warren looked up and said, “Deb, if you are going to stress about these things, we are not going to continue to come.” He wanted this to be family not performance and he was right. I try to make that a lesson that stays with me.
There is no place for perfectionism. I’ve shared glorious meals that took hours to prepare and came out flawless. I’ve also burned the biscuits and forgotten main components of the meal. Some of our best meals have been take out. On the night we purchased our new home, we invited friends to gather. Our goal was to share the moment of celebration. They brought fried chicken and we ate on lawn furniture in the empty house. It was perfect. When we focus on the people, on the shared experience, and on friendship. It works.
Keep at it. If we had tried it once and given up, we would have missed out on some of the best things in our lives. I think we found that keeping things low stakes works for us. We don’t invite people we want to impress in to our home, we invite people we want to love. We did it with families and lots of kids when the kids were home… most of that involved hotdogs and hamburgers. We found that sharing life, made it more fun.
We don’t invite people we want to impress in to our home, we invite people we want to love.
In our home, we have only one rule… You are only a guest once. In practice, this means that on your first visit I will serve you and make sure you know where things are. I may still put you to work, but I won’t make you fill your own cup. After you’ve been here once, all bets are off. Coffee? sure, the cups are in the cupboard, help yourself. After you’ve been here once… you’re family, make yourself at home.
This is part of a 31 day writing challenge. If you are interested in following along, you can find the rest of the series here. Thank you for stopping by!