What Are You Bringing?

By Dave Almack

(This blog was originally published on “FaithLit”, Dave Almack’s Blog. You can find the original here.)

So, I have a confession to make. I am a huge fan of potluck picnics. For those not familiar with this particular tradition, this is a combination of a typical outdoor barbecue with the twist that the guests are invited to bring a dish along to share with others. Given that I like to grill and eat just about any type of meat that exists and am an extrovert, these events are often the highlight of my summer. With one small exception. Occasionally and I mean occasionally, these events can get partially derailed by that guest who brings something “special” that only they appreciate. If you are a fan of potluck picnics, you know what I am talking about. Somehow, they show up with a wilted salad, a leftover vegetable medley or my least favorite – anything (with the exception of coleslaw) that includes cabbage. If you are like me, you hold your nose and walk right by that stinky cabbage and look for the fresh corn on the cob or the just-baked rolls to complement your pork barbecue or burger.

This got me thinking. How does this happen anyway and why would anyone want to ruin a wonderful picnic with side dishes like this? And then it hit me. A lot of life is like a potluck picnic. Every day that we wake up, we have a choice to make. What are we going to bring? How are we going to choose to interact with others? Are we going to bring our best or just the leftovers? Being involved in a ministry that deals with the public on a daily basis, I have been faced with this question a lot and I am not sure that I have always been the one bringing the corn on the cob or the rolls. So why is that?

The truth is that I and many others tend to bring what we have into any interaction in which we are involved. If we have a fridge full of fresh corn and oven full of hot rolls, we will bring that. Unfortunately, more often that I would like to admit, my personal fridge is full of leftovers, including the wilting salad and the day-old veggies. Sometimes, if I am really honest, I even cook up a mess of stinky cabbage with my words and actions and then bring that to the party too. Worst of all, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that if I just make cupcakes too, it will make everything better. As an eternal optimist, I am way too confident that simply “turning that frown upside down” will fix whatever needs fixing.

Recently, I have been convicted that to truly bring my best to the party, I need to take it to the recycling plant first. OK, I know that sounds weird and may not even make sense, but hear me out. As much as I would like to have fresh strawberries and scones in my fridge every time I open it, that just isn’t going to happen. I will wake up without enough sleep, some difficult circumstance will produce anxiety and I am not always going to be my cheerful self. So what can I do? I have to take my stuff to the only place that can make any real and lasting transformation – the foot of the cross. Only my savior, who died in my place and says “come as you are”, will really be able to do something lasting and permanent about my stinky cabbage. Sadly (for me), this is no magic formula and my leftovers are not automatically transformed into prize-winning potato salad. Instead, my savior requires repentance and daily surrender to His plans for my life. This process is painful and time-consuming, but is the only way that I will ever bring anything worthwhile to party next time I am invited.