(or “A Lesson in Leadership”)
In our house, the kitchen is my domain. I love to cook and hospitality is one of my spiritual gifts. It isn’t uncommon for us to have guests over for an evening and within that, it’s not uncommon for me to go a little overboard with things…
Part of making the mess is cleaning it up and that is not one of my spiritual gifts. It’s a chore. It’s a reminder that the fun is over and that there are leftovers. I don’t mind leftovers, but they’re kind of like food re-runs to me. It isn’t that they aren’t good, it’s that they were much better when I didn’t know what was going to happen.
There are times when our guests ask to help. I’ve been known to politely decline. We invited you into our home to relax and have a carefree evening (we have many friends with far too few of those opportunities.) Besides, it’s just easier for me to do it because I know where everything goes and I know how I like it all done…
Recently, a good friend would not take ‘no’ for an answer. She gathered the dishes, brought them into the kitchen and began the post-meal rituals of stowing leftovers, scraping the plates and (GASP!) doing the dishes. Here are three possible ways this story ends…
We bear too much upon ourselves for all the wrong reasons. While rules and systems help us function, we ought to honestly look at the dependence we’ve developed. We rely on them too often and too inflexibly and hold them in too high esteem. We hurt relationships to check off boxes so we can say we “did it right.” When we hurt those relationships, we hurt others and we hurt ourselves, but we don’t see it. When we hold procedures and practice to be more sacred than people, we will be left with what we have chosen. We will be left with an intact rule book and a broken community, or perhaps just the rule book.
It’s even worse when our motivations are deceptive. At least in the first story, there’s a sense of sincerity to it. In the second ending, and in how we deal with many situations in life, we operate on a “need to know” basis with motivations and with truth. We craft situations and circumstances, and therefore manipulate them and the people in them, to accomplish our own agenda according to our own terms. It’s shallow but still obvious. It’s a glass mask that we believe hides things, but is ultimately transparent. We pretend it isn’t there and we feign offence, or worse, feel it genuinely when it’s called out. Yet at the end of the day, we’re still alone in the task. We’ve still failed community.
Only when we let go of it all can we embrace it all. Only when we will first be honest with ourselves and our own inadequacies can we truly receive from others, including God. Only when giving others a chance to give in their way can we all truly become community. It’s only when we release the (completely unrealistic and unachievable) death grip on perfection through procedure and can live with the words “it’s good enough” that community will be it’s best and it’s most blessed.
It may mean a little more work later, but that’s what I want… every moment and every day. I would rather live in “it’s good enough” with friends than “it’s perfect” alone.
After all, I’d rather make two pots of coffee than a single cup.