Dinner with a Perfect Stranger

So, aside from tiny cat earrings, my dad also bought both the Butcher and I the same book: Dinner with a Perfect Stranger: An Invitation Worth Considering by David Gregory.

This is a perfectly lovely little book about a guy who goes to dinner with Jesus and Jesus tells him why all the other world religions (except, curiously enough, Judaism) are wrong and only Christianity is right. If you are a thoughtful Christian with a shallow sense of regard for other religions, you’ll like this book.

If you are, perhaps, a daughter of parents who are thoughtful Christians with a shallow regard for other religions, I have just solved your next gift-giving occasion needs. You’re welcome.

That being said, I didn’t really care for it. It’s nicely written, but it’s a little too smug. I’m not going to take it apart piece by piece, but I’ll just say that there’s something really annoying about the fact that Jesus’s critiques of other world religions are valid enough on their face, but he’s not nearly as critical of Christianity though the same critiques would easily apply.

Still, my dad loves the book and I wanted to at least like it.

Which brings me back to a post I’ve been trying to write for days, about the complicated ways between fathers and daughters, and how I cannot bear to disappoint him and how I think my whole way of being in the world cannot help but do that.

I’m not a Christian. I’m not married. I’ve given him no grandkids. I’m a terrible housekeeper. Etc.

But I’ve been thinking about him both wanting to meet Sarcastro and giving me this book and what he said to me when I was telling him about my conversation with Miss J.

I don’t want to go too much into what I was talking to Miss J. about, since, if she wanted you to know, she’d start her own blog. But I told my dad that she was considering sitting her parents down and explaining to them that she wasn’t going to live the kind of life they wanted her to live. He got kind of upset and said that I should tell her not to do that, that her parents already knew it, their actions were just their way of denying it to themselves.

This seemed like a pretty bold thing for someone who doesn’t really know Miss J.’s parents to say, and so I figured he was actually saying something about him and me.

And then I’d been thinking about how I’d been so sure that he was hung up about meeting Sarcastro because it was confirmation that at least one man doesn’t run fleeing from me. But the night we called Sarcastro at dinner, you should have seen my dad’s eyes dancing when I was on the phone with Sarcastro. He just thought that was hilarious, that we’d call this guy up and give him a hard time. Which got me thinking about the drunken Thanksgiving phone call from the Wayward Boy Scout and Sarcastro and how my mom and I were standing in the kitchen both laughing.

And it just dawned on me today that my dad likes to meet people who delight me and who make me laugh. And that he wants to delight in them as well.

He wanted to take Sarcastro to dinner not to tell funny stories about me, which, of course, was my worry, but to tell funny stories to and hear funny stories from someone I’d made seem very amusing.

And so then, he gives me this book, and I’ve sat through enough sermons of his and listened to him talk enough about God to know where he stands and so I get to this part, where Jesus asks the narrator what his daughter will have to do to earn his love and the narrator responds “That’s ridiculous,” further explaining, “She won’t have to do anything. She’s my daughter.”

And it makes me think that I’ve spent a lot of time looking for and worrying about the ways I’m not living up to my dad’s expectations of me. And he’s spent a lot of time, in his own grouchy, obstinate, unclear way, trying to tell me that it doesn’t matter if I do or not, that I don’t have to do anything to earn his love.

I feel kind of like a dumbass that it’s taken me so long to figure this out. Yes, things are fucked up between us and probably always will be, but I think, if I can learn to listen as carefully to the good ways he tries to be open with me as I do to the shitty things he says, that might lead us both someplace interesting.

6 thoughts on “Dinner with a Perfect Stranger

  1. Well of course Jesus can be smug about other religions since he knows they are wrong.

    It sounds like you are going through the same realization that almost everybody goes through at your age, and I say that not to belittle it’s significance, but to point out that it is a universal problem.

  2. Great story. It’s nice to hear when sensitive Christian types really are sensitive and Christian, in the best sense.

  3. I connected with this more than you will ever know. Although I haven’t come to the realization that you wrote about when it comes to my father, I do hold out some hope. Lovely post. I love visiting here.

  4. Yesterday my step-daughter had a terrible vent on my partner, who was very hurt by the whole thing.

    She is busy thinking that bad things happened to her in the collapse of the family, when she was “just a little girl” like her own daughter, but she too feels guilty about the way she treats her child.

    The point you are making is powerful and healing. And it suggests as well the amazing perceptual gulf between parents and children about the lives we share together. And how hard it is to chase the illusions away.

    – barista

  5. “she was considering sitting her parents down and explaining to them that she wasn’t going to live the kind of life they wanted her to live. He got kind of upset and said that I should tell her not to do that, that her parents already knew it, their actions were just their way of denying it to themselves.”

    So, Miss J, are you going to take his advice?

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you ever get the balls to have this conversation with them, I want to be there… Me? I’m still too much of a coward at present.

    -The Divine Ms. B

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