As a twenty-three year old newlywed, I found myself flying solo in the kitchen for the first time in my life. Clueless, yet willing to learn, I recruited Rachael Ray and her 30-minute meals to help me get dinner on the table night after night. I fumbled my way through each recipe, but Rachael made me brave. I made great strides in my cooking skills—even if her 30-minute meals took me 60 minutes to complete.
Then one night my hungry husband sliced into his chicken breast and discovered its still raw center. The confused look on my face caused him to pull back his knife to reveal the pink, jelly-like middle. That evening I got my first lesson in food safety. Turns out, medium rare isn’t an option with poultry.
The rice pilaf that shared the plate with the bacteria-ridden chicken also lost its appeal, and I trashed the entire dinner for a safer, pre-packaged alternative. For a long time after that we ate anything I could take directly from freezer to oven to table.
Early in our marriage, I had full-on meltdowns at the suggestion of inviting family over for dinner. I’m talking sheer panic. Invite a stranger in? Forget about it.
To this day, the kitchen is an intimidating place and a reminder of my weaknesses. I avoid cooking for anyone outside my immediate family. I’m the one given the “rolls and wine” assignment for family gatherings. I much prefer the role of sous chef with exact instructions coming from someone who knows their way around a mirepoix.
Being comfortable in the kitchen may not be a prerequisite for being hospitable, but dwelling on my incompetence has straight up stifled my desire to show hospitality to others.
My husband, on the other hand, is at ease in the kitchen. He has the patience for pre-heating and takes his time to chop and prepare before he’s knee-deep in the heat of the task. He has the palate to know how to adjust the seasoning and the confidence to improvise. He doesn’t skimp on fresh rosemary and he always seems to have a secret ingredient to make each meal extra special. He jokes the secret ingredient is love. I think it’s actually the result of growing up in a kitchen.
But just in case he’s onto something, I began to mimic him in the kitchen earlier this year. I slowed down and forced myself to reject the urge to rush to get something, anything, on the table. I tried new recipes with new-to-me ingredients and cooking techniques. I resisted the temptation to slip back into laziness. I asked my family for feedback when I served something new and tweaked recipes based on their input.
My motivation was simply to show my family I cared enough to try harder in the kitchen, but these small shifts caused something I never expected. Slowly I began to enjoy the chopping and sauteing, setting the table and pouring the milk. As I sliced fresh mozzarella, I took in the vibrant red of the nearby tomatoes and the sweet fragrance of basil leaves — a trio that comes together to form one of creation’s greatest culinary blessings — and I delighted in a God who would so lovingly provide more than just sustenance. He gives delicious provisions that bring Him glory. Yes, I found myself worshiping the creative Creator God right in the middle of my least favorite household duty.
I spent ten years dreading the kitchen and making sure everyone knew it. Yet when I humbled myself for the sake of others and in the name of love, the God who made me with a particular set of interests and gifts softened my heart toward the work it takes to set the table to share His grace with others. When I got over myself and pushed past my imperfections, he was faithful to meet me and mold me into someone who looks more like Jesus to my family.
And I know He can grow within me a heart for hospitality that extends beyond my own walls. He commands it and will be faithful to equip me for it.