The Heart of Hospitality

I could share favorite recipes and how-to tips with my readers again, but today I’d rather focus on the why of hospitality. Truly, hosting others could be seen as a pure inconvenience. It’s usually an additional expense, it forces us to actually dust our shelves (though, that actually doesn’t happen around the Lodge very often), sweep the floors, stuff the mail in some out-of-seen place and put extra effort into the cooking. So why put ourselves through this? Why bear the added effort and expense if we don’t have to? Well, tonight I’m feeling extra contemplative and, as such, I’m remembering that the most difficult trials I have faced so far were made so much more bearable and, dare I even say, sweet, by the love, companionship and hospitality of others.

We can certainly decide to face a new difficulty as a challenge that needs to be met or a mountain that needs to be climbed. I appreciate all the metaphors and the strong constitution it takes to meet those encounters as much as the next person. But what if, instead of merely tackling a feat before us, we were actually meant to find a few people who had already wrestled through a similar endeavor and who could join us in our journey? I know, rather than think, that this is the better path, most often. There are more self-help books, posts, memes and mantras out there than ever before, but I honestly believe that what we need more than a mantra or a self-help plan is a community of people, a Body if you will, who can help bear our burdens and make them just a little bit lighter so that once we’re on the other side of our trial, we can do the same for someone else who will soon be going through a similar experience.

When I was still mourning the loss of my second miscarriage, I remember sharing a little more deeply than normal how I “was doing” with a fellow mom who asked. Upon disclosing some of my struggles, she said, “Wow. I had a miscarriage several years ago but no one was talking about that when I had mine. I didn’t feel as though I could share with anyone and felt so alone.”

I will never forget those words because I recall being shocked at the thought of different women facing such similar and difficult situations and yet not helping each other through them. Isn’t that one of the rare beauties of going through a trial or struggle, being able to give help and advice to someone else after you’ve passed through it?

Enjoying a weekend away with the husband, not knowing if another baby would be coming.

After my second miscarriage, my husband and I waited for over 6 months to try to get pregnant again. I was so fragile and neither of us wanted to jump into another attempt without being thoughtful. When I finally felt open to the thought, we did get pregnant again. Several weeks after the positive pregnancy test, I thought that I was going through a miscarriage… again. That Sunday I thought history was repeating itself. Our dear friends came over to our house to pray for us, hug us and support us. My pain and my grief were so great. My throat was too tight to talk. I remember sitting at the table with literal open arms ready to receive any and all help and comfort.

In that particular case, my fear turned out to be a hematoma instead of another miscarriage, which would later resolve itself and give us our son! But in the agonizing hours of that Sunday and the tentative weeks of waiting thereafter, I thought I was going to be staring into an even longer, darker tunnel than ever before. Even then, however, I knew that by the prayers and comfort of those in my life, we would get through the next trial, somehow.

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This goes for all manner of life’s bumps, by the way. Just last night, a friend was sharing about her battle with depression and how she feels like there is so much bad advice out there when it comes to dealing with it. She now openly shares about her experiences with others who are looking for help because she knows that she can add value to and encourage the conversation, which is sometimes otherwise considered “taboo”. Just yesterday, she hosted a young lady who is struggling with depression in her home, to enable an honest discussion with someone else who can empathize.

I’ll be direct and say that I don’t think that our current culture tends to experience acute pain and grief as often as other generations and societies have had to endure. Of course, this is a gross oversimplification, but it’s not terribly far-fetched either. Where other generations dealt with fathers, husbands and sons all dying in the same war, or had to face famine and rampant health distresses, in our time, we are preserved from much of these things. I am grateful for this, certainly, but I also recognize that when a hardship does cross my way, it’s perhaps a rare opportunity to turn to the One who experienced agony on my behalf while I was still a sinner. There was a time when if someone had suggested to me, “I can bring back your joy but this person over here will experience the loss you didn’t,” I might have allowed them to do it. If that same person had said, “Hey, someone is going to have to undergo the pain you’re currently experiencing, unless you decide to endure it for them,” there is no way I would have succumbed. Then I realize, that is exactly what Christ did for me. He was the sacrifice I needed and He bore the pain that I deserved.

As the Frank Houghto hymn sings,

“Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love’s sake becomes poor.

All for Love’s sake, he becamest man.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
Make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Saviour and King, we worship thee.”

I don’t hold all of the answers and I still think about the losses I’ve experienced and have wondered about God’s sovereign plan in them. However, I can now also reflect on the gracious arms and homes that held me during those hard seasons and, more importantly, how specifically God ministered to my needs and how tenderly He carried me through those experiences.

One year later, holding our beloved son.

Are you being called to be more vulnerable with others? Is there someone who might find your home to be a much-needed sanctuary? By fostering a “heart of hospitality,” you may discover that in providing a home-cooked meal, you wind up giving so much more to someone who needs it.

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