Tomatoes & Hospitality
Growing up I was taught manners. I know, if at all possible, I should eat what I am served in someone else’s home. That’s why I was nervous when I saw the overflowing bowl of cherry tomatoes on the dinner table.
This was my first time in the home of a pastor’s family my husband & I had just met. The meal looked & smelled delicious but the bowl of tomatoes was taunting me. I was secretly hoping it wouldn’t get passed around. Then someone handed it to me.
I took a few. Enough that it looked like I had made an effort but not enough that it would ruin my entire meal. The real problem is my gag reflex. I don’t try to do it, I just can’t help it. I gag unexpectedly when I eat certain foods. Tomatoes are one of those things.
The pastor sat describing his love of garden fresh tomatoes & I cringed as I tried to force the first one into my mouth. As quickly as I possibly could I chomped through it. It fit perfectly into my mouth in one bite & I fully expected to start gaging as the familiar juice gushed.
To my surprise, nothing happened. No gaging. In fact, I enjoyed the tomato. I almost fell out of my chair. NEVER had I come close to liking a tomato of any kind. This was different.
I pleasantly ate the tomatoes & mentioned how delicious they were. I heard the story of how a family in the church grew them & brought them over often because they knew how much their pastor liked them.
As I write this I have vine ripened cherry tomatoes sitting on my counter & I ate several only a few minutes ago. Every time I eat them I am reminded of the hospitality we experienced that night.
This pastor’s family welcomed us in. They didn’t know us at all. We had joined their congregation the evening before for worship & they happily opened their home to strangers. They learned about us, gave us the kind of advice that only comes from those seasoned in life & ministry, fed us a delicious meal, & even sent us home with books to read. They didn’t seem to mind our toddler getting into everything or our newborn crying. In fact, the pastor held him through much of the meal, comforting him, & giving my tired arms a rest.
The Taste of Welcome
I developed a taste for cherry tomatoes through hospitality. I don’t know whether it is the fond memory or the actual taste I like but regardless I actually crave tomatoes on occasion now.
Looking back, I’m reminded that cherry tomatoes are not the only thing I have developed a taste for because of hospitality.
I have developed a taste for Scripture & the beautiful way it applies to my life by sitting at the feet of a dear mentor in college who opened her home, her kitchen, & her heart to dozens of college age women. She taught us the Scriptures, lived them out before us, & fed us amazing meals.
I have developed a taste for educating my children in the Word by celebrating in the home of a daughter as she threw her godly mother an 80th birthday party & the family reflected on her life & godly wisdom over the years.
I have developed a taste for real relationships as I sat at an outdoor mall with a sweet friend pouring over picnic food, the Gospel, & everything life was throwing at us.
I have developed a taste for the love of the saints as I listened to people I had just met rejoice at our rejoicing & weep as we wept.
God has used hospitality to develop a taste for many things in my heart. All of it pointing to the truth proclaimed in Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste & see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
The goodness of the Lord has been on display in my life through hospitality & I pray He would use me to develop similar tastes in His people.