I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about hospitality lately. It just seems to keep coming at me from every direction. My daily Bible study, at She Reads Truth, is currently on hospitality. The theme of the recent Allume conference, which I didn’t attend but have been listening to on audio, was hospitality. The book I’ve been re-reading this week, Lauren Winner’s Mudhouse Sabbath, has a chapter on hospitality, which I’d forgotten until I arrived at the page where it begins. To top it all off, before this deluge even began, my friend Sarah and I discovered that God had given us a shared vision for a contributor blog, which we’ll launch in mid-2015. The focus? The hospitality of God – the idea that everyone, everyone, no matter how ugly or messed up their story is, no matter how isolated or lost they feel, has a seat at the table of Jesus. During our separate prayer times, Sarah and I each saw an image of a beautiful table. How we laughed with joy and amazement when we found out God had shown us the same image! I’ll have more to share about that virtual table as time goes on.
It feels like strange timing, all of this thinking and talking and deep pondering about true hospitality, because in just three weeks, I will become the stranger, the one desperately longing for someone to show me hospitality. For the first time, I’m moving to a place where no one is waiting. Not a single friend, not a single colleague, not a single family member. It’s social ground zero, basically.
And friends, I’m wrestling. Part of me is stoically bracing myself for a lengthy period of loneliness and isolation as we search for the right church, seek out new social outlets, and go through the slow process of getting to know people and making friends. Another part of me has felt fiercely proactive. I’ve been scoping out local groups on Meetup and putting out feelers to people in my professional writers’ association, determined to arrive in Memphis with something – anything – on my social calendar.
But there’s a third part, a part that wants to just rest and trust in God, a part that wants to rely on his hospitality in this season. Because deep down, I know that he is the one who will make the way for us, into a new life, a new community, a new season.
It doesn’t make it any easier that we’re leaving DC on the second day of Advent. The holidays, for me, have typically always been a time for people, for reconnecting with family and friends I haven’t seen in a while, for cozy meals shared with loved ones, gift exchanges, and parties where the rooms are filled with laughter. This Advent season is going to be different. It’s going to be quiet. But as I’ve processed this impending quiet, it’s occurred to me that maybe it’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s actually quite the opposite. Maybe without all the social events at the center, it will be easier this Advent to focus on Jesus, who entered the world a stranger himself, in a lonely stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem, a town where his parents knew no one. A town that didn’t even have room for them.
Already, we have it better than Mary and Joseph. It isn’t likely that there won’t be room at the Holiday Inn, and even if there isn’t, Memphis has hundreds of other hotels. And like Mary and Joseph, we have a God who will go before us to prepare the way. A God who will be waiting to welcome us with open arms. A God who wants to remind us that no matter where we are, our true home is in him. A God who knows the deepest meaning of loneliness and isolation, because he lived it long before we did, when he came to save the world out of love, was born in obscurity, spit on, cast out, beaten, and crucified – the very humblest of human experiences.
The hospitality of God is an incredible thing. His home, his table, have room for all. We need never feel alone, strangers on the fringe of things, as long as we have him.
So come, December. Come. Let’s go to Memphis.
Mercy & grace~
Photo credit: Didriks. License: Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution