And I sat around my kitchen table admiring the collection of girls that sat there. Girls who are new to me but not to each other. Chatter flowed easily, talk of Miles Davis, our community group, if we were boys — what kind would we be, etc. Some of it deep, some of it light. It's wonderful evenings like this where I can just relax into the conversation, taking in the little collective of personalities. Strong and adventurous, meek and gentle, fervent and passionate, everyone a little different but together, a symphony of souls.
Growing older I've noticed how much I belong in a menagerie. Something about being around people who are cataclysmically different than I does me good. It stretches me, comforts me, teaches me how to really see people, and subsequently care for them. People come to the table with their ugly beautiful. With their bad days, bad families, bad attitudes, but also with good grace and good laughter and good riddance of bad rubbish.
When I was young, I remember having company over. It meant a clean room and a good attitude. Sometimes I would grab a notepad and scurry from room to room taking drink orders, pretending it was a restaurant. These were the years I learned how to serve with my actions. Now, hosting my own table, I am learning to serve with my heart. My parent served with their hearts too. But unlike how to keep a clean house and when to refill the ice bucket, hospitality isn't taught, it's caught.
As I've been "catching" community the past few years, I can't exactly define it. It's a welcome to interrupt but never actually interrupting. It's being sacrificed for but never feeling as if you put anyone out. It's being allowed to see behind the curtain, both the gifts and the gross misconduct and having permission to abide there.
It's easy to fall into a rhythm of having company over. Preparing for an event rather than hosting people. Seeing the "to do" rather than seeing the space and souls. A big portion of my job is to host people, and I can easily tell the difference when I am having company and when I am hosting community with a heart of hospitality. One asks to be done perfectly and for acceptance and affirmation, the other doesn't ask for anything.
My heart is prone to only offer things if they push me further into people's good graces. I fail (or choose to fail) to see that Jesus really calls me to serve anyone and everyone, especially those whose good graces matter least. And that only happens when He is enough for me. Left to myself I will always be about company and impressions. I stumbled upon the first C.S. Lewis quote I can recollect, and just like the first time it struck deep:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think to often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, it at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization, [hospitality] — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Lewis reminded me today that the simplicity or elaboration with which I do anything matters not. The reactions of those that I crave are only my concern for my potential glory. Jesus' desire for my table is for me to bear the burdens. For me to see the immortals and cherish them. To push them hopefully heaven-ward rather than nearer immortal horror. It's a bold proclamation, there is no challenge in it, just reality. I can neglect others immortality all I want, concerning myself only with my own. What would that be worth? Rooting one another on, seeing victory, freedom, redemption. That is the life I long for. That is the life I hope to foster at my table and beyond. I hope the crevices of my world carry this as the torch. People did it for me, in fact they still are. I see how I am changed for it. Grateful for how I am changed for it.
Praise God from whom all tables flow.