Several years ago, my husband invited a colleague and his family to join us for dinner. This man’s side-hustle (and passion) was personal training, and given that the closest thing to a “marathon” I’ve ever completed is binge-watching hours of Little House on the Prairie episodes, I wanted to do whatever I could to give the appearance we were capable of making healthy choices.
So I sliced-and-diced my way to the vegetable tray to end all vegetable trays. The result was a rainbow of delightfully fresh veggies from the mundane (carrots and sugar snap peas) to the exciting (red peppers and jicama). The produce pile was impressive, covering my largest serving tray. More vegetables than we typically eat in a week. More vegetables than Ma, Pa, and all the girls probably ate in a week – and that’s saying something!
The toppling tower of vegetables and an array of healthy dipping options were displayed in the center of the table when our guests arrived. I was somewhat puzzled when Mrs. Personal Trainer said, “Wow! We almost never eat vegetables.”
“Huh?” I thought. “Well ... maybe their healthy lifestyle is more about exercise than food choices.”
We chatted casually over my obscene mountain of green, then gathered the children back into the dining room for dinner: a pot roast with – you guessed it – even more vegetables.
When our company had gone, I mentioned the comment my new friend had made, and her confession that her family rarely crossed paths with green food. “I guess I figured they must eat vegetables all the time. …”
My husband gave me a quizzical look, asking, “Why would you assume they eat a lot of vegetables?”
“Well – if you were a personal trainer, wouldn’t you eat a lot of vegetables, probably?”
“I guess so, but Tim isn’t a personal trainer. That’s Chris from my office. Tim and his wife are just regular, down-to-earth people – like us.”
Instead of relaxing and preparing for an evening of fun with new friends, I bought out the produce section and spent ages prepping frigid, raw vegetables so I could craft a crudite platter worthy of Mr. and Mrs. Fitness USA, and in reality, I could have ordered pizza, popped in a movie for the kids, and just been ... myself. My flawed, curvy, TV-watching, not-so-much-of-a-cook self.
1 Peter 4:9 instructs us to “show hospitality to one another without grumbling,” while Proverbs 16:18 warns that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” So. True. If we hadn’t eventually moved to another state, we might still be harboring leftover vegetables in some forgotten corner of the fridge…
When you invite people in, it is tempting to present your best face, prettiest dress, spic-n-span house, gourmet-chef skills and everything in between – all in an attempt to fake-it-till-you-make-it.
When I compare community and the brave act of hosting to my faith, here is what I see: When I asked Jesus into my heart and He became the most important part of my life, He didn’t say, “Nah girl, your life is a mess, your house is a mess, and what’s up with that hair? Plus, you can’t even cook toast without burning it!”
Nope. Jesus said to me: “Trust me. I will make you strong, and I will lend you courage. You are mine, and I love you just as you are. I want to be in your life, and I have a purpose for you.”
So, the next time you go out on a limb and invite someone over for a meal, or even just a cup of tea, tell your inner perfectionist to zip it. No one wants to have dinner with Ms. Perfect. They want to be with you – the real you. They want to enjoy your company, even if that means dust-bunnies and burned toast. And I’m not saying don’t make a vegetable platter, but girl please ... toss a simple salad, order up a pizza (if that’s your thing) and relax. You’ve got this! And community – with other imperfect people – is so worth it.
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