I have found this realization to be seriously problematic as one: perfection does not exist. Can't be reached. Impossible. And two: perfection directed outwards is not a healthy pursuit.
There is an Egyptian proverb that says a beautiful thing is never perfect. Hmmm.
This past week we had an influx of visitors from 'The District.' It was wonderful to have so much life and energy swirling around our wild home. The joy they brought to us was simply immeasurable.
However, in preparing for this East Coast visit, I became a tornado. Full-on F5. crazy...whirling about our house...leaving many victims in my wake. My goal, perfection. The house needed to be spotless, the rooms welcoming, the meals planned, and everything executed with extraordinary precision. This desire was pure in origin, as I truly did want to serve our guests in the best way possible, yet, in execution, it became the likes of my Brita faucet filter, red light blinking, telling me my water may be over-calcified. Impure.
The need to make things perfect, to display perfection, overtook my intention of service. And therein lies the difference between entertaining and hospitality. A subtlety that I have not even thought to discern.
Entertaining seeks to display all that we have, our creativity, our beauty, and our abilities. But, in essence, it becomes the "me show." (Yes, I did sew those curtains by hand, and of course that truffle bisque with a white-wine reduction is my own recipe. Oh, that old thing? I had the cashmere flown in from Pakistan and wove each section in my heart and with my loom... all while holding five jobs, not sleeping, and training for the Iron Man.) Yes, entertaining can become somewhat beastly...although, if I really did all of the above I cannot say that I wouldn't have it tattooed on my a**.
In contrast, hospitality seeks to take every blessing that we have been given by our Maker, and share it with our brothers and sisters. It seeks not perfection, but people. It seeks not admiration, but relationship. Hospitality is a welcome gift...for those who choose to welcome it.
So, as my tornado raged, so too did my God. Lovingly, He gazed upon my violent whirling and recognized that I was only blowing smoke.
In my efforts to have the sheets perfectly cleaned and ready-to-be-slept-in, He made them not fit the air mattress they had fit for a year. Entertaining fail. In my attempts to have every meal planned to perfection (including wine pairings), He allowed a late-lunch to turn into a lack of hunger, followed by a panic as the left-overs were not going to feed the masses. Entertaining fail. In my desire to have all our activities planned, He discarded my schedule, so much so that one whole day was spent losing all the pre-planned meals in the toilet, oh yeah, and following Cal with a bucket and a towel to catch his meals, too. Entertaining FAIL. Yet, as a benevolent and gracious God, it was never more than I could handle...humbling, inexact, angering, yes. But never too much.
And in my most humbling of entertaining "triumphs," as I laid on the bathroom floor with Cal crawling on me, demanding, "Maamama MORE! Mamama UP!" I decided to surrender. For this was God's day, God's week, God's plan...and I, am simply a player. I should have recognized that submitting my "plans" to His refining may just lead to less of me and more of Him. Which lends itself to a much better party.
"When hospitality becomes an art, it loses its very soul."
***Thank you to our wonderful guests, who not only filled our home with an abundance of love and laughter, but taught me more about opening our doors than I could have ever imagined.