For the past week I have searched my heart to understand what hospitality really meant to me, but, despite my best efforts, nothing I thought of felt quite right. I seemed to have all the ‘proper’ answers stored up in my mind, ready to be spewed out on command, but they seemed trite and shallow. I have to admit the more I thought about hospitality, the more I realised how little I knew about it. Of course there have been times when our home has been opened up to relative strangers who have shared a meal with us. There have been times when I have cooked meals for the bereaved, or for those suffering under the weight of a loved one’s illness. And there have been times when my home seemingly sagged under the heaviness of other people’s trials and tribulations. I have fed, listened to and comforted - but still the true meaning of hospitality remained elusive.
Mid-way through the week my mind had turned to producing something funny and poignant, possibly starting with the lines -
“Paul’s a veggy”
“Julie has colon problems. Salad upsets her intestinal balance.”
“Pasta then. Surely everyone can eat pasta?”
It would end with the frustrated husband going out into the fields to feed his sheep with bales of hay, rather than stay and struggle with a menu for his more human flock.
It didn’t work. Poignancy became flippancy. True meaning still remained elusive.
Towards the end of the week I was ready to admit defeat. I became more and more despondent as I realised I hadn’t actually got anything to say. Worse, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had probably been going through the motions, without any real understanding of hospitality at all.
Today God has blessed me with a glimmer of insight.
Due to a number of circumstances our finances are tighter than tight at the moment, so much so that every penny has to be accounted for. Providing enough food to satisfy the bottomless pit of teenage appetites often seems to be an impossible task. Each week, shopping becomes a juggling act between providing essentials and adding a touch of variety - not an easy task. Add to the mixing pot the fact that half-term begins on Monday, bringing in its wake a tide of extra mouths as friends are bought home to the inevitable “So and So is here. Can we make a sandwich?”
Yahweh Yireh, the Lord will provide. How could I ever have doubted Him? My store cupboards are full, not only with essentials, but with luxuries that haven’t crossed this threshold for some time now, thanks to the fellowship of our little church. Their loving kindness, their hospitality towards my family bought more than tears to my eyes, it has bought the beginnings of understanding. Whilst I have known the joy of offering hospitality, I had never experienced the overwhelming sense of being loved, of belonging, of being part of a fellowship that cares about every detail of my life and is willing to reach out and hold me in times of trouble.
In my need, God provided. The physical needs of my family have been taken care of for at least another week,. More than that, I have gained a little more understanding of the true meaning of hospitality, which I think can be summed up as being the giving of yourself to others in Christ’s love.
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