I circled nervously around our tiny apartment kitchen desperately wanting – needing – everything to be absolutely perfect.
I was a recently wed, twenty-three year old woman. And my big sister and her husband were coming over for dinner.
I carefully chose a recipe that I knew they would enjoy. And I went to work preparing barbecue chicken pizza, using bottled sauce and a pre-made crust. Everything was fine until I realized that I had bought the wrong cheese. The recipe I was using called for jack cheese and I had accidentally purchased white cheddar.
I was so intently focused on impressing my guests with a perfect meal that I allowed the wrong cheese to become a devastating discouragement. And my frustration grew into certainty that I’d never be a good cook or hostess.
Sadly, I do not remember anything else about that evening. I’m pretty certain that the pizza tasted fine with cheddar cheese and we had a lovely time. But I let one silly mistake steal the joy of an otherwise wonderful evening with people that I love.
When I think about that memory now – as embarrassing as it is to admit that I was so dramatic over the wrong cheese – I realize that what made me so incredibly anxious that night was the immense distance between my heart’s desire to be wonderfully hospitable and my experience in the kitchen.
It can feel daunting to walk through the time in between our initial awareness a calling that God has woven into the fibers of our being – and acquiring the experience, maturity, and skill to actually be a person who can live into that calling well.
Certainty of our calling and knowing is not enough. We still have to live the journey of preparation, developing by our failures as much as our successes.
As a new bride I wanted to just be an amazing hostess, long before I had put in the effort and learning needed to truly understand and practice hospitality.
However, the gift of the uncomfortable in between time was learning that the desperation to be perfect or striving to avoid mishaps can steal the joy of everything wonderful that I want to experience along the way.
And so – through much practice – I have come to understand that hospitality truly is about loving people well in our homes; creating a space where people are seen and accepted and cherished; and providing nourishment and refreshment to the heart, mind, and soul of another person. Hospitality has never been about using the right cheese.