Come for dinner; my ego is being served
I admit, as the daughter of a Greek chef, hosting quickly became second nature for me. Actually, anything that brings about community invigorates and energizes me. I love planning the menu, laying the groundwork and creating the mood. Hosting was part of the reason we purchased a property with some room to spread out. After meals we like to get everyone together and do something crazy like play soccer with an exercise ball or set up a huge slip ‘n’ slide with a roll of poly-tarp. (You know, regular hillbilly entertainment.) But, if you have ever been to our place and been even marginally impressed with the spread of food or the condition of our house or property, you should probably know something… I was depressed by the time you left. Perfection is a cruel master that always leaves you feeling like a failure. Even worse, I always felt certain I had missed some critical component, but I could never quite figure out what it was.
Recently I hosted a large dinner and as three teenage girls were helping me carry out all the platters of food I had prepared one of them said, “Everything looks so Tumblr!” It took me a beat to figure out that she was referring to a new social media platform (because apparently we needed another one.) I have to admit, I wasn’t all that settled by the compliment. Later that night, as I was putting the last dishes away, I realized it bothered me because for perhaps the first time in my life, a picture perfect presentation had not been my goal… I had wanted relational wounds to heal, facades to crumble and for all of us to go a little bit deeper with one another and with God. I didn’t get what I wanted.
There’s a story in the Bible of two sisters; two hostesses… Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and had this beautiful encounter with him, while Martha scrambled around with preparations to feed what was likely 70 people, and then got a loving rebuke from Jesus when she complained that Mary wasn’t helping. He said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken from her.” I never liked this story… I always kinda figured Mary was the “younger sister” who got to show up late with dinner rolls and ginger ale. I didn’t understand why Martha should get slack just for doing what she was good at. Okay, Mary didn’t need to help, fine. But for Martha to get rebuked for serving? Totally not cool, Jesus. But then suddenly there it was, in that one small-ish word… serving. And I had to be honest with myself for a minute. Even though preparations for an event usually started out to be about my guests, by the time all was said and done it turned into being more about the quality of my food or the condition of my house. And this, I think, was more likely what Jesus was referring to.
The question to ask ourselves is this, are we really serving our guests or just our own ego? Does my service look like it should be posted on Tumblr or like Jesus who once washed the feet of everyone at a table before they sat down to eat? It really can’t be both. Besides, authentic community has a really hard time flourishing in an environment where everything appears to be perfect. If we are truly serving our guests, we might consider the fact that our “service” could actually make them leave feeling insecure. I started to realize that every time I host I have a choice to make… my guests can leave feeling appreciated, valued and connected or they can think higher of me. It’s the difference between just opening up my home and opening up my heart. Real service always costs something and it should remind us of someone. The true measure of a great hostess lies in who her guests esteem as they walk out the front door. Are you, like I was, missing the better part? Are you worried and troubled about many things every time you entertain? Are you willing and able to just look them face-to-face, when nothing is perfect and engage in the kinds of conversations that heal hearts, restore relationships and change lives?
Let’s aim to truly and wholly serve one another.
Let’s choose the better part.
It’s better than perfect.