“I just invited Tom* to dinner,” my husband said, coming through the back door into the kitchen.
I stared at him in disbelief for a millisecond, but I knew he wasn’t joking. He would invite a neighbor to dinner at the last minute. The dining room table was already set, the food served, and we were about to sit down. Or, I should say, half of the table was set. The other half — the part we didn’t need for only the three of us — was cluttered with books, magazines, bits of mail, and assorted junk.
“Nice timing,” I said, beginning to stack the mess in an unbalanced pile.
“I just ran into him outside,” he explained, his eyes apologetic as he helped clear the space. “He’s really excited about coming. And I’ve been wanting to have him over.”
“I’m all for having him over,” I snapped. “It’s the timing I’m not so happy about.”
I stashed the precarious pile on the piano bench and assessed our simple supper: three ears of rapidly cooling corn-on-the-cob and ingredients to make “BLOATS” (bacon, lettuce, onion, avocado, and tomato sandwiches). Despite the ample-sounding acronym, it was slim pickings. Then I assessed my appearance, and the meal looked impressive in comparison. No make up, long tie-dyed jersey skirt, white t-shirt, and flip flops. Topped off with a vintage floral apron, the look suggested June Cleaver in her fifties after she ditched the pearls and pumps and moved to a hippie commune.
Oh, well. Tom would be here any second. There was nothing I could do to improve any of it. I headed into the kitchen to toast more bread.
When I returned George had broken the corn ears in half and was shifting the table runner from the center to the now empty end of the table. I huffed my disapproval, snatched a few stray pencils off the runner, and slid it back to center where everyone knows a runner belongs. I was setting a fourth place when George scooted out to answer Tom’s heavy knock on the door — hurrying no doubt to get to Tom and not away from me.
I promise I’m really not an ogre (except occasionally to the people I trust to love me no matter what, and no, I don’t want to stop and think about the implications of that statement right now), and I was already feeling prickles of conviction regarding my focus on appearances and lack of hospitality. Besides, it’s impossible not to like Tom. He’s soft spoken, friendly, and courteous. He’s also single and lives alone. The least I could do is allow him a little break from his domestic solitude. When he walked in I managed a sincere smile and greeted him warmly.
“Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it,” he said. Then, looking around, he added, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in this house. It’s very nice!”
Prickles became stabs. How lazy of a neighbor am I? Sure, Tom’s parents own the house he lives in, and he’s only been occupying it for a few months. But still. By this point God had my full attention. As we took our seats I breathed a silent prayer for eyes to see and ears to hear.
George gave thanks for the food, then fell into easy conversation with Tom, touching on topics I’d only vaguely been aware of or didn’t know anything about at all. Obviously these men had been getting to know each other in snatches, and George had been observant.
Almost immediately their talk turned to things of God, and I watched Tom’s soul open like a thirsty bud placed in fresh water. More than once he said, “I’ve been thinking about something and want to know what you think.” And these weren’t mundane matters, like where he should go to get a good deal on tires or how George handles fire ants. These were digging-into-the-Word-and-wanting-to-honor-God-with-my-choices matters.
I knew Tom was a believer, but I didn’t know much else — didn’t know he would sacrifice his own heart’s desires or comforts to please God. Didn’t know he held scripture in every bit as high a regard as George and I do. Didn’t know, because I never bothered to find out.
Tom has a seminary degree. He knows a lot, but he’s not haughty, and the more I listened, the more I heard a heart beating hard after God, humble, teachable, steadfast. He’s going through a tough season right now, casting himself on the Lord for wisdom and direction, and he needed an opportunity to talk to a brother and sister — to lay some thoughts out there and examine them in community.
We lingered long, and the God of mercy stooped low. He opened my eyes and ears, and I realized our dining room had become a holy place and our table an altar. We’d gathered around a simple supper of sandwiches and half ears of corn, but we’d dined on spiritual meat, and our souls were satisfied. God had prepared a feast we would have missed if George hadn’t opened our door.
My husband. He would invite a neighbor to dinner at the last minute.
When I grow up, I hope I’m just like him.
Giving thanks in community for:
#109 a husband who teaches me hospitality
#110 a neighbor who mentors me in loving Jesus better
#111 a simple supper turned into a feast
#112 forgiveness 70 times 7
#113 juicy red sweetness of garden tomatoes
#114 Jacob’s eyes alight with laughter, slurping a strawberry smoothie through a straw
#115 a kitchen, a table, an open door
#116 a Sunday sermon about rest and the quiet whisper to “Come.”
and especially today:
#117 the flag on our front gable and
#118 those who laid down their lives to preserve all it represents. Greater love has no one than this.
To those whose loved ones died defending our freedom, a humble thank you. Grace and peace and much love to you.
*Tom is not his real name. I changed it because I didn’t ask permission to share this story and want to respect his privacy.