Monday, February 23, 2009

Practicing Hospitality

We have been on a school break since a week ago last Friday (yes, our school has a weird calendar-mainly having to do with getting the MKs in the dorm together with their parents more often). As many of you know, going from a school schedule to a week-long break back to school schedule can make for rough transitions...I had hoped this break would be more of a stay-at-home-get-rested-and-relaxed break, but somehow it morphed into a really irregular schedule and some late nights...not really bad, just different than what I'd hoped. I knew that we were all feeling tired, so I figured that after church on Sunday, we'd be able to rest and then get to bed early two nights in a row to be nice and rested up for when school resumes again tomorrow.

And then came the call to hospitality.

Late Sunday afternoon we got a ring from a pastor friend of Miguel's; he and his family were coming into town and could they come to our house? This is a couple that works up in the sierra planting churches...Miguel and the youth work team from our church spent a week with them up there last year. Miguel had given them our number and told them to call if they were ever in town and they were taking him up on his offer. To their credit, we found out that they had sent us a text message three days ago...oops, guess we missed it! Note to self-don't rely on text messages for communication. But I digress...

First reaction: slight panic. I have very little food in the house, will they want to spend the night? and are the bathrooms clean?! Oh my goodness, look at the floor-how long has it been since I mopped? ...we had a bit of a rough Sunday and we're tired...I am really not prepared for this!

Second reaction: ¡Tranquila! Relax! Everything will be fine! Guess that's my Latin side...

So when they got here, we offered them drinks and chatted for a while. Then we offered them supper, although Miguel and the pastor had to go to the store for groceries first. The pastor's wife and I stayed home and began preparing what food I could find in the house...lemonade, some broccoli, a couple of cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes for the "tortas" (sandwiches with bread similar to Kaiser rolls), and oh good-I had the ingredients for cornbread, well, everything minus the milk, but it turned out okay with just water (Note to self: Cooking for company is not really a good time to experiment with recipes).

When Miguel returned with the rest of the torta fixings, we had supper and then they said that they would, indeed, like to spend the night. So we rearranged the house a bit, shuffled some kids around (we also had another friend of Micah's spending the night, too), everyone had a place to sleep, and all was well. Miguel did have to run to the store again this morning for milk...definitely that laid-back Latin approach to life, just kind of taking things as they come. :)

I was thinking about all of this earlier today and decided to review what Scripture says about hospitality. I did a search on Biblegateway and the first verse that showed up was Romans 12:13, "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." I was curious about the context, so I expanded the view to show the entire chapter. Now I really should have recognized which chapter this was, but apparently my brain had taken a short vacation or something. I was somewhat surprised to scroll up to the beginning of the chapter and see that this verse appears in a chapter that begins with...

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship."

I'm not a theologian and maybe these two passages weren't really meant to "go together", and yet today it struck me that maybe they do! What jumped out to me this morning was: 1) share with those in need, 2) practice hospitality and 3) sacrifice.

I don't think I normally view hospitality as being a sacrifice...but is that because I usually maintain control of when and how I practice it? It's when the unexpected company shows up that my true attitude towards hospitality gets tested! I'm happy to say that I had a good attitude about it this time, but unfortunately it hasn't always been the case...

I think that I have somewhat lost the true essence of hospitality. I think maybe I often view hospitality as something to give when I feel I have it to give...to be done when/if the conditions are optimal...when it's convenient for me...when it fits into my schedule...when no other activities are planned so my full attention can be focused solely on our guests (and when does that ever happen?!)...when I have something special to offer. It can become an "all or nothing" situation-either it's done to "perfection" or not at all.

No, the conditions weren't exactly "optimal" for having company this weekend (far from it, actually). No, it didn't really "fit" into our schedule. No, the house wasn't in great shape (among other things, there is actually a big chunk of ABC gum stuck to the floor in the bathroom behind the toilet-I just didn't have the time to deal with it!)...I simply had to overlook a lot of the cleaning "details". Yes, we stayed up too late. Yes, we spent money on the extra groceries during a tight month for us. Yes, the kids are going to be tired tomorrow (I did manage to get them in bed early tonight). Yes, it "messed up" our schedule.
And yet I think we practiced hospitality. I'm so glad we did.

7 comments:

Missionaries in La Ceiba, Honduras said...

A very insightful post! Because I know how often those exact thoughts have gone into my head. Our "deal" is - we have a team house. It's the central meeting place of all our team mates, it's the house for teams to come stay/live/cook in while they are here - so the nights that we have "to ourself" are precious indeed - when you throw in an unexpected house guest, at times I just have to sigh and try and adjust my attitude. So what I'm saying - I TOTALLY understand. A good friend of mine said a very wise thing once - are you RESIGNED to where God has brought you, or are you CONTENT with where He has brought you? Sure made me think :-)

Alan & Beth McManus said...

Yes, unexpected company can be hard, a blessing but hard. I find it especially hard in the summer when we're already inundated with teams from the States and a day alone is precious. I appreciate your insights and those in the comment above. Resignation vs. contentment! Hmm! I think I need to work on that!

Becky Aguirre said...

Yes, when your house is meant to be "open" like yours, it is really hard to get time to yourselves! I would imagine you almost have to get to the place of expecting unexpected guests...LOL! And it is really all about the attitude, isn't it? We can practice hospitality resigned to 'get it done and over with' or honestly wanting to please and honor God. Many times, I've been so blessed by our guests or those we were serving, it's humbling...esp. when the attitude wasn't exactly good to start with...

I wanted to add a little bit about boundaries and limits to the post, because I'm all for those--in a healthy way, of course-but it didn't really fit, maybe another post. But God knows what we can handle and the question is, can I trust Him to provide the strength and emotional energy to serve who He's sent my way?

Terri :o) said...

Becky,
This is really good stuff. I'm one of those people who hate drop-in guests, and I've had my meltdown moments when family or friends showed up and I was not prepared. I always thought that just meant I should always be prepared (house clean, fridge stocked, etc), but you are right, it's more important my heart is prepared for the sacrifice of just being able to let go and let God handle it. You are amazing, and such a good influence on me. Thanks for being so open and honest.

Cindy said...

truth is...I very much prefer hospitality on my own terms....
but after 30 years of ministry in different capacities....some
of the biggest blessings were when I had to do it quickly without thinking or cleaning or planning.
yes, I chaffed in the moment but realized after the fact that God gave me strength and help for the moment and turned out to be a blessing for me...and hopefully for my guests :)

Becky Aguirre said...

@Terri-I think that's it, we can never really be "prepared" enough, and preparing our hearts will allow God to show love through us. And love for others is shown through giving...

@Cindy-definitely agree with you there! I haven't been in ministry as long as you have (well, in my adult life), but I can say that I have quite often been so blessed by giving to others via the hospitality...I don't think it's a coincidence that God commands us to do it...it's for our own blessing as well as theirs!

Shilo said...

Being here in the US, I miss the chances for latin style spontaneous hospitality! Maybe that means I'm overcoming perfectionism (clean house, fabulous food, etc) and just learning to enjoy togetherness??