Friday, June 21, 2013

Party of 15

We extended the invitation on Saturday.  Friends, who are really family, have company in town.  And they are living in tents while they wait for their promised land to rise from the dirt, so the invitation almost extended itself.  Come on over for dinner.  Gather around our table because the Lord has done great things for us. We can share with you from an abundant harvest and it would be our very great privilege to break bread with you.  Party of 8. Let’s gather.

By Sunday, I realized our friends’ out of town guests from last week were coming back into town for the weekend and so our dinner count grew by two.  And I remember the days when changing plans left me reeling.  But the Lord has done great things for us and He is doing great things in me and I am delighted and so grateful to set two more places for these people who are like my kin. 

Dinner is scheduled.  Monday at 5:30.  Party of 10.

On Monday afternoon, around 2:00, I started to wonder…. Did I ever extend an invitation to our friends that just moved?  Their life is packed in boxes and paint fumes are their normal and these people are our family, too.  And on a holiday marked with remembrance and sacrifice and BBQs and the dawning of summer, will they eat pizza again? Alone? Or worse yet, labor for dinner after laboring to turn a house into a home?

A phone call later and the count grows by 4.  Dinner is set.  5:30. Party of 14. 

I spend the day in the usual fashion when you are expecting to feed a crowd.  Vacuuming, washing surfaces, tossing veggies around in a bowl and trying to think of all the odds and ends that will gently say, “Welcome.  We are so glad you came. Gather around the table. We’ve been expecting you.”

5:30 strikes.  And, group by group, they all arrive.  We are gathered. We are communing.  We are walking steps on this path together.  And the doorbell rings.  I peer around the corner and it’s an unexpected guest.  Our friend who does some work for the Chef.  He’s here to pick up a check and he’s been working because he always works and he looks tired. 
I open the door to let him in.  And he enters timidly the way you would expect if you arrived on site in the middle of a party full of invited guests. And I offer words as he crosses the threshold, “Hey friend. Come on in.  Good to see you. Are you hungry?”

And he says it soft the way he says everything. “Well, kinda.” 
Dinner is ready. It’s 6:00.  Party of 15.

In the midst of the beautiful chaos, I stop and look around.  These friends who are our nearest family are making their way through the kitchen, filling plates, opening drawers like it’s home and the chattering never slows and it is paired with contagious laughter.  And I hadn’t realized until now how much I have missed this.  Gathering. Filling bellies and filling hearts.   Community in our home.
And I hold back the tears and bow my heart in worship.  God has done great things for us.  This winter our grocery list was our wish list but today we are hosting a dinner for 15. And I can’t say we waited on him gracefully or endured patiently.  In fact I remember a few dark days coupled with many harsh words and maybe even a clenched fist shaking toward the heavens.  But God, He doesn’t hold it against me.  He delights in showing me His power in His time.

And I think this is what I stand in awe of the most.  His patience coupled with His unwavering faithfulness.  The way He listened to every word I screamed at Him in my faithlessness.  And Him just nodding His head with a patient smile as He whispers, “Not yet, child”.  Because had he rescued us any sooner, I might never know this immeasurable amount of gratitude.  And had he done it the way I would have expected, in a Martha Stewart-worthy home, I might never experience the great privilege of just being able to open the doors of our home and say with love and gratefulness and sincerity, “Come on in. Are you hungry?  We have plenty and we would count it one of our greatest gifts to break bread with you.”

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