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I’ll admit, some of the most stressful moments of my marriage have occurred right before my husband and I have friends over for dinner. For some reason, the food I’m preparing and the table I’m setting never seems to live up to my expectations. I’ve fallen victim to the mentality that everything has to look perfect, taste perfect, even smell perfect in order to have a perfect dinner with friends and family. And if the dinner won’t cook fast enough or something burns? I may keep my cool on the outside, but inside I’m a knot of stress and frustration.
Why is that? What is it about hospitality, about opening up your home to others that feels so hard? So exposing? Even, sometimes, so shameful?
It’s not like I go over to other people’s homes thinking the same thing. One of my dearest friends openly admits to being terribly untidy, and yet her home is one of the places I feel most comfortable and myself. So why the pressure, why the shame?
I think the answer lies in what opening our homes to others represents. It represents opening ourselves to others, even when things aren’t perfect. And it’s hard to bring people into our mess. It’s hard to let barriers down, let our guard down and be real with people. So we try to hide behind pretty dinnerware and fancy food, thinking, As long as my home looks perfect and dinner tastes great, no one will look too close at ME.
Shauna Niequist gets our fears. She’s written her newest book, Bread & Wine, about those fears, and about why it’s so important to overcome them and to welcome people into our messiness.
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Shauna’s no stranger to the disarray life can bring. She writes openly about her own struggles with hospitality, with infertility and miscarriages, with her body and what it means to be hungry and to eat, and how all of those things impact the way she fellowships with others. Throughout Bread & Wine, I was challenged with my own ideas of community and inspired by Shauna and her friends, how they reached into one another’s messiness and extended the grace love and, yes, the food we all need in our most vulnerable moments. When we gather together, our supper tables should reflect God’s design—that eating together is a sacred act, one meant to draw us closer together and closer to God.
I sat down with Shauna (via Skype) and we talked about some of these things- about overcoming shame and opening ourselves up to others, and about why fellowship and community are so important to our health. You can watch part of our conversation embedded below, or you can link to it here.
What about you? What do you find hard about inviting people into your home? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com, part of the Salem Web Network. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and enjoys reading, writing and spending time in the great outdoors.