Why I Gather

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Opening your home and serving a meal you aren’t proud of can be hard.

There is the conversing around the table. We do our best to ask thoughtful questions when conversation runs dry. We push back against the need to always fill the silence because the quiet speaks too. The clanking of spoons in bowls of soup says much if we let it. We keep things light but also dig deep, talking about the weather and how making friends in adulthood is hard. There’s the answering of questions. Truthfully, I’d much rather ask questions. It’s always been a shortcoming of mine. When asked about my work, I get awkward. I look down at the table to avoid eye contact, as my story hops from one job to the next. I attempt to bring folks up to speed on where I am and hope to go but it's a path I’m not even sure of most days.

Do they think I’m as flaky as I sound?

Am I talking too much?

I’m so glad they brought bacon.

Anyone else have an inner dialogue? If I'm being honest, I can so easily fall into pleasing and striving when I open our door. I become protective of an image that doesn’t even exist.

I’ll do this thinking it’s from a humble place, chalk it up to being mindful of the needs of others. But really, all I’m thinking of is myself. I’m completely missing the narrative unfolding around me as I nitpick, prune, and criticize my every move. I’m no longer present in the space but in my own head.

To me, hospitality is a posture. It’s not merely decor and food but a dance of opening our door and heart to the stranger, the willingness to get out of the way and make someone feel seen and understood. It’s a letting go of pride and control -- drinks will spill, food will taste bad, and conversation might come to an abrupt, awkward halt. And that’s okay. It’s an act of service, offering not just a place at the table but our steady gaze that has so much vying for its attention.

We often spend more time looking at people we don’t know and ourselves on a tiny screen than actually looking at each other. Could there be anything more kind than actually seeing someone? We’re hungry for it. We are aching for connection and intimacy.

At least, I am.

This is why I gather. This is why it matters to me at all. It’s why I still open the door when I feel unprepared and frazzled. It's why I meet for coffee and take walks and sit on a neighbors porch. I don’t do it because it comes easy or natural every time. I do it because sometimes it feels really hard and outside my comfort zone. But the stretch feels worth it. I’m refined in the process. I do it because the stories we carry deserve space.

And because God never intended for us to live alone. He could have put us on our own islands, disconnected, and far away from each other. But he didn’t.

He placed us smack dab in the middle of it all commanding us to love our neighbor.

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So we gather. We clear the table and wash the dishes. We scrape bits of egg casserole off plates. Was it really that bad or am I just being hard on myself? We sweep crumbs off the floor and hear the faintest whisper of a God who delights in gathering too. A God who spent His last hours sitting around the table breaking bread and drinking wine.

The more I gather, the more I’m reminded that hospitality is less about preparing a space and more about preparing our heart. It's inviting interruption and inconvenience. It’s letting go of an image no one asked us to strive for. It’s serving a watery egg casserole because that’s what we have and while food is important, it isn’t what keeps us coming back for more.

We invite people in because amidst the hustle and errands and meetings, it's too easy to live disconnected from each other. Despite rich friendships and trying my hardest to remain tethered to the Spirit, I get lonely. And I start to wonder, am I the only person who feels this way or wrestles with certain burdens? There’s a vulnerability around the table I don’t find other places. A promise I make to give you an honest look into who I am, so you can feel safe to share with me too.

It’s a give and take. An offering and receiving. A realization that we're actually quite similar.

Tell me, what do you love most about gathering? What does hospitality look like for you? Or maybe, what keeps you from doing it more? I’d love to encourage each other through it.

Photography // Hilary Hyland Photography