Don’t you hate those character building experiences? Recently, with a seemingly innocent manoeuvre and a crack, I broke my ankle in three places. Yes, this is still an article on entertaining (not health!) Instantly, it looked like my dinner party in five days would be the biggest casualty!
I will spare you the gory details, but with two hands on crutches I had zero hands to prepare, serve, pamper, clear or do anything remotely hospitable. Plus, I was facing a complicated surgery with a painful recovery. My dinner guests asked if I wanted to reschedule.
Nothing invigorates refreshes or refuels like laughing with friends around a candle-lit dining table so I was desperate to be encouraged, uplifted, supported and loved. Unfortunately, I was now a completely helpless host; not able to carry a plate from the kitchen to the table much less pull off my usual extravaganzas. Not only was my ankle broken, my entertaining prowess was weak and vulnerable. What should I do? The answer, of course, was to forget about the perfection and enjoy my friends. Along the way I learned a few lessons.
1. Be content in a ‘new normal’—it is an opportunity to refocus
In my ‘old normal’, entertaining was a strength; it was easy; fun! My ‘new normal’ near killed me. I hated not being able to prepare, pamper, fuss-over and dote on my guests. I hated feeling helpless! Having to depend on others for the simplest things was difficult, bordering on impossible for my personality.
Yes, I was a helpless host, but when I refocused, I could see my personal standard of extravagance wasn’t really necessary. God has never been impressed with human strength or self-sufficiency and I addressed the irritations surfacing in my inner being with prayer. Our gracious Lord allows circumstances into our lives that encourage spiritual growth, even if they are unwelcome arrivals. Being honest about vulnerabilities prevents arrogance and keeps us humble.
2. Don’t use your weakness and limitations as an excuse
‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness,’ (2 Cor 12:9a).
Everyone has them. They can be physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, financial or relational. Some are little and some are big. Some are temporary and some are not. It’s not the weakness that’s the problem; it’s using the problem as an excuse.
We don’t have to pretend that we have it all together. We simply need to get together. God designed us to be in community, to fellowship. He is not limited by our limitations. They merely cause us to depend on Him. He is God of the impossible. Whatever your limitation, don’t make an excuse—make a guest list!
3. Connection is critical, nothing else
My ankle weakness showed me just how much I needed my Christian friendships. God works best when we admit our weaknesses. I told everyone that I really wanted to get together but couldn’t offer anything more than good music and a table (fortunately that was set before my accident).
Each guest agreed to bring a dish with serving utensils, ready to serve in a potluck buffet. My husband had drinks and glasses ready for self-service. Once the smiling faces and helping hands arrived, everything changed. My resentment of my limited mobility dissolved, my spirits lifted, and by the end of the evening, no celebrant was more satisfied than me! Plus, kind friends laughed all the way through the washing of the dishes. I learned that being together is the only thing that matters. Surprisingly, vulnerabilities can encourage fellowship among believers.
4. The Forward Plan
If the holidays ahead find you in a season of limitations or weakness, take heart. There is good news for any helpless host.
First, make sure you are around people who encourage your spiritual growth, feed your soul with the good things of God and who help you to become all that God intends you to be—these are our most treasured relationships. I am not talking about surface-level chit-chat, but rather the deep heart-to-heart fellowship that comes from sharing joys, revealing failures, admitting hurts and then asking for help and prayer. But these very special friendships often get starved in the commotion of life and in seasons of weakness. Make a list of these individuals or families and make a plan to see them.
Secondly, we need to move in God’s grace. Limitations not only show just how much we need others, but they can also reveal faults in others and in ourselves. God does not expect anyone to be perfect. The Bible is full of examples where he used limited, ordinary, imperfect people to accomplish extraordinary things.
God specialises in taking our greatest weakness and strengthening us through it. This supernatural transformation is good news for any helpless host. CW
Wendy Hunsaker has written a hospitality handbook called SENSEsational Parties published by Ark House Press. To get more party tips, ideas and inspiration ask for it at your local Christian bookstore.