Last night, I took the trio out to dinner. A rare treat. Not only do we eat out infrequently, we never dine out on a Monday evening! But I was overdue to celebrate their straight As on their first report card of fourth grade. I won’t digress into how hard fourth grade has been and how these As seem miraculous to me, that’s for another post, but sufficed to say we had cause to celebrate.
I put the location to a vote and unanimously we landed at our favorite Mexican food restaurant. It’s the first place we ate out with triplets and we’ve been loyal customers for a decade.
Bray was out of town for the night so we sat at a booth for four and dissected their day. We talked about issues that cropped up on the playground, fun had a P.E., questions about other people’s reactions, and so forth and so on. We had a wonderful time. Then we strolled down the sidewalk to explore the dollar store, one of their favorite excursions, and spent $8.66 on a few silly items for the holidays ahead. (If you read my Facebook posts, you know how annoyed I am that Halloween has been utterly surpassed in the stores by their October Christmas displays!)
I learned a lot, sitting there, listening to their stories all tumbling on top of the other’s. We make family dinners a priority. I always make them report on the “best part of the day” before they can launch into a trouble or complaint. It grows gratitude.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of each individual meal as I’ve led a class at church for the past few weeks on hospitality. Maybe I had just lost sight of the fact that much of the Gospel stories revolve around Jesus eating or drinking. Or Jesus telling parables about eating or drinking.
Modern America has distorted hospitality. It’s become more about us and what our entertaining shows to others than about making space available for friends and strangers alike to tell their stories around a table. We need to acquire the right stemware and serving platters and candles and table displays (and by we, I mean me).
Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with setting a pretty table. My grandmother, and favorite human who ever walked the earth, would set beautiful holiday tables (and take pictures of them – just like I do now). She, and I, derive great joy from creating a lovely atmosphere to host others.
The trouble starts when (a) decorating becomes about pride and how people perceive us, rather than about them, or (b) impeccable decor or food is a prerequisite to us opening our homes.
In preparation for my class, where the theme is SIMPLE hospitality, I started reading about meals where Jesus was a guest. In Luke 5, he gladly accepted an invitation to a feast at the home of a tax collector (Levi) which was considered utterly unacceptable by religious leaders. In Luke 7, he welcomed a woman who is believed to have been a prostitute to a dinner party at a religious leader’s home and freely gave forgiveness and acceptance. Can you imagine if someone like that crashed one of our dinner parties? I don’t know that our reaction would be much different than the disdainful leaders of that time.
It goes on and on. In Luke 9, after learning of his dear cousin’s death, Jesus tried to get away. But the crowds followed him and He threw one of the biggest dinner parties of all time with meager beginnings – five loaves and two fish became dinner for well over 5,000. He joined his friends for dinner in Luke 10. Parables about the wedding feast and great banquet appear in Luke 14. He attends an impromptu dinner at Zacchaeus’ house in Luke 19. And maybe one of the most memorable meals of all time, Jesus’ last meal told in Luke 22 (and elsewhere), where He uses a simple meal of bread and wine at a stranger’s house to remind us even now of His sacrifice.
It can be utterly transformative.
In Biblical times and now.
Are we having important conversations around our dinner table? Are we welcoming in friends and strangers alike?
With one meal, comes opportunity. What if we looked at each dinner with fresh eyes, ready to open our home and our kitchen to friends and family and those in need? What would we learn? Whose lives could we change?