On Father’s Day, I took my husband out for a buffet dinner. The restaurant had a live band and dance performances. Simple enough— but this wasn’t just any restaurant and band. This was a halal eatery that served Egyptian food, and hosted an authentic Egyptian performance group. There were belly dancers from a local Academy of Egyptian Dance who swayed, turned, and shook to the heartfelt music.
When we walked into the restaurant, we were not exactly in our element. We had never tried Egyptian food, we were Christians in a Muslim cultural space, and the belly dancing was unexpected and a little disconcerting.
It was a small restaurant with seats for only around 40 people. The owner immediately introduced herself, told us to eat all we wanted to eat, and stay as long as we wanted to stay. She informed us that since our table had room for four people, they might seat other guests with us. In a few minutes, the band and dancers arrived.
They were old, young, and middle-aged. Interesting. The group set up a few feet in front of us and did their sound checks, while the dancers went to the back to change clothes. They worked fluidly, magically together, and soon the performance was ready to begin.
Once again, the owner appeared, told us that she was also the chef, and introduced the performers one by one. The music began, and when the second dancer took the floor, we thought she was probably 60 years old. Other dancers were older, too, and not all were particularly trim. They were at least mostly modest, but the dancing really was—well— belly dancing. The band sang, dancers danced, and guests clapped with the music. A waiter brought platters of sweets to the tables and refilled glasses. By the time we left this place, we were comfortable in the unfamiliar surroundings.
Better yet, my husband and I felt like family.
I thought about the evening the next day. What made that feel like family, and what could churches potentially learn from an experience like that?
- First, the hospitality was stunningly genuine. Both customers and performers, regulars and newcomers, seventy five year olds and six year olds were there together. All were welcome.
- Second, there was real appreciation communicated between the band, the dancers, the owner, and the one waiter. Everyone seemed to value everyone else’s contribution.
- Finally, nobody minded on another’s flaws. They didn’t mind practicing and setting up publically, age and weight were not considered embarrassing, and not everything was presented flawlessly.
It was wonderful, marvelous and fun, nevertheless. I am familiar with restaurants, and with churches that spend a lot of time and money aiming for perfection, but never achieve family.
Are the supposed “seekers” among us looking more for perfection or family? Perfection isn’t a bad thing, but not everyone is able to offer that, and not everybody wants or needs it. We are, after all, the family of God.
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