Recently, I was planning a shopping run to several country stores.
I’m always worried that people will… well, talk to me. When I go shopping in Elkhart County with a list of things to buy, what I really want is to get my items post-haste, and get back home. I don’t really enjoy having 25 cars ahead of me at the stop light, or seven people ahead of me in line, or three people crowding the dairy cooler at the same time that I’m selecting cheese. I used to love shopping at 3 am when I worked night shift and had a day off.
But now, I explained to Marnell, I have to get up the courage to go shopping.
There’s daylight, and bustle and people who think they know me or at least someone in my family.
“Now let me see, I think I know you! Didn’t your mom pass away from cancer?”
“Didn’t your grandma used to drive Amish?”
And now, “Oh yes, you’re the one that just got married, how sweet!”
“What’s wrong with that?” Marnell asked.
I added, “And then they’ll say, ‘Oh, you married Marnell? I know him! He’s really nice! I wonder why he married you?'”
I knew Marnell wouldn’t be able to relate to my discomfort. When he goes shopping, he talks with almost everyone he meets. He loses track of time. He makes bored cashiers laugh and leaves people feeling more cheerful than when they came.
A few days later, I encountered an article “Everyone You Meet Will Live Forever: Evangelism in an Age of Unbelief”, written on the desiringgod website by Matt Chandler. (Here it is)
It was about hospitality. Now, I basically enjoy having company, so I didn’t feel too convicted as I began to read these warm lines:
Now, why would God be so serious about hospitality? Well, because he has been so hospitable to us. Even when we were living as his enemies, he came and saved us. He opened the door and invited us into his presence. We demonstrate that we truly appreciate the divine hospitality we have received as we extend our own hospitality to those around us.
I’m not suggesting that biblical hospitality is the silver bullet for making evangelism work in the twenty-first century (news flash: there’s no silver bullet). But might it not be — in our cynical, polarizing, critical, dumpster-fire culture — that a warm dose of welcoming hospitality will take some folks by surprise and open up the door for opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ?
Then, I got to his practical application section entitled Four Ways to Show Hospitality. (Wouldn’t life be so much more comfortable if preachers and teachers would skip the practical application sections?)
Point Number One: Welcome everyone you meet.
As if the author read my mind, he added:
I think the best first step is to greet everyone you see. That’s easy to do if you are wired like me — I’m a total extrovert. That’s hard if you’re an introvert, and maybe you’re thinking, “Can we just skip to number two, please?” But often the best actions to take are the hardest to do. Pray for grace, ask for strength, take a risk, and greet people.
Point Number Two: Engage People.
Uh-oh. For me, not much of an improvement over Point Number One.
Have I mentioned that Marnell “knows a guy” in basically every human sphere?
A few years ago (2015?), I finally called an appliance company about my Craigslist dishwasher. I told them I wanted my dishwasher evaluated because the dial stuck and it would wash forever. It also did a bad job of washing dishes. It left them spotted and crusted with soap.
They told me that there would be a diagnostic fee of $50 per appliance but that if I then fixed the problem, the money would go toward the repair bill.
In all fairness to the guy who came out, it wasn’t really his fault that he looked fresh out of junior high. He did bring his own door mat to wipe his feet on, which was nice. He told me that he could take apart the dial on the dishwasher, but the repair and parts would probably cost more than it was worth. I paid $50 for that thought. He also told me the ice maker could not be fixed, a conclusion to which he seemed to arrived by Googling something on his phone. I paid $50 for that thought too (as I recall, it’s been awhile).
So I struggled on, and I learned to make sure I didn’t start the dishwasher unless I was going to be home and could move it along manually, and I struggled on.
Then, I got married, and started doing more dishes, and the incompetence of the dishwasher swelled to nearly complete uselessness.
“I know the guy at Northside Appliance,” Marnell said. “I’ll talk to him sometime.”
We were eating a meal one night when Marnell suddenly focused on the dishwasher.
“Take it off of high heat,” he said.
“The guy” at Northside had told him that some of the cheaper Frigidaire models will not meet the high temperature requirement and therefore will run indefinitely.
“Also, he said to use Quantum Finish soap and rinse aid.”
I crossed the kitchen and punched the high heat buttons off, and for good measure put the high heat dry on. I couldn’t remember looking at those buttons for years and certainly couldn’t have told you they were there. (Apparently the junior high appliance guy couldn’t have either).
I started the dishwasher, and 45 minutes later I realized that it had passed the sticking point.
“It’s working!” I crowed.
Not only was it working, but when I unloaded it the next morning, the dishes were remarkably clean.
When I added the soap and rinse aid he suggested, the dishwasher was transformed.
Engaging someone in conversation did something that $100 could not do. I wonder how often I’ve missed a blessing because I was too much in a hurry, too intent on my list, too focused on tasks yet to accomplish?
But more important than receiving a blessing, what if God wanted to bless someone else through me, and I was too busy checking things off my list? What if one of those people who will live forever was disappointed when I snapped my plastic card in and out of the credit card machine and moved on?
Like any habit, I suspect this one will die hard. But I thank God for pointing it out to me, not just as a characteristic of my personality to excuse, but as a weakness to improve with intention. And have you noticed how God is so faithful at sending tangible reminders to help us learn?
In this case the object lesson is a dishwasher, as good as new.