I had lunch recently with a good friend, Gene. We met at the Home Plate, our usual place because the food is good and reasonably priced. Gene and I are both pushing 60, and as we glance around we are clearly the “young kids” at this establishment.
Our lunchtime conversations usually center around the Lord, and a common theme is authentic Christianity and God’s grace through it all. We laugh a little as well (good medicine).
This particular day I ordered the goulash, since it was on special and it just sounded good: ground beef, elbow macaroni, tomatoes, (this recipe had mushrooms) with a nice blend of spices. I couldn’t eat it all, so I asked for a container to go. When I looked at the box our waitress brought, my initial thought was, “This might not work.”
The box seemed too shallow to hold the sloppy, sloshly goulash.
I loaded it up anyway and placed it on top of my iPad. Then I stacked another box containing bread on top of that. Gene and I chatted as we made our way to our respective vehicles. As I climbed into my van and set my stack on the passenger seat, I noticed that I had experienced a little mishap.
Somewhere between the restaurant and the parking lot, I had inadvertently tipped the goulash box enough to spill some of it on my sweater and down the left side of my pants. I needed to return to the church, but I didn’t want anyone to see me such a mess. I even thought about driving home (1/2 hour round-trip) to change clothes and save the embarrassment.
Humility won over pride, and I pulled into the church parking lot plotting my strategy. To my relief, no cars were in sight, and I cleaned myself up as best I could in the church restroom. This would be my little secret.
As I reflected on my goulash and garment clash, I saw the similarity with our tendency to cover up our spiritual messiness. Our pride so often undermines our deep need for someone to care about us. How ironic. If we never open up about our struggles in life, how can someone respond in love, concern, encouragement and prayer?
How am I? “Just fine, praise God.”
Granted, there is an appropriate time and place for confession and vulnerability. That’s why I value small groups in the church. It’s there that we should feel welcome and loved and supported no matter how messy we are. There’s also value in the one-on-one experience, and that’s why I enjoy so much my lunchtimes with Gene.
You never know what’s going to happen or where the conversation will lead. But two things are certain: we will be transparent with each other, and the goulash will be very good.