The other day, my friend Lori and I worked on her birthday invitations.
We sat at our table at McDonalds and filled in names and dates on the cards. Lori is turning 50 this year, and we couldn’t let the milestone pass by without a big brouhaha. When I first began to think about her party, I pictured it in my head. Fine linen invitations, with a lovely cursive font. Crisp white tablecloths, wine glasses. China dishes. Fine cuisine. We would make it special…
My party fantasies began to fizzle when we began to talk about invitations. “What would you like, Lori?” As we began to shop, I realized very quickly what I liked and what Lori liked were very different. “These ones!” We were in the kids party section of the card store. “The ones with the squirrel! When are we going to get the tablecloths and plates? The dollar store has some with colors! I want Chinese food for the dinner!”
Fancy and special? Our definitions were different, and I realized if I planned the party in a way that pleased my aesthetic and culinary sensibilities, Lori would be left cold. So we bought squirrel cards.
This has specific missional implications. As we are making friends who are different from us culturally or socio-economically, when we are entering into their world and loving them there, we have to lay aside our preconceived notions of what good news is. Filet mignon is not good news to Lori. Egg rolls are. I realized that my initial birthday fantasies were patronizing and paternalistic. I needed to get into Lori’s world and let her write the definitions. Then and only then can I demonstrate the love and life of Jesus in a way that will reach the heart.
I flopped back on the couch and let the noise and motion swirl around me. Happy chaos. Babies chuckling, little boys leaping over furniture, pots clattering. “Would you like some tea?” my friend Bambi’s voice floated from the kitchen.
It’s 18 years ago. I’m a single mum of an infant, and badly frayed around the edges after a horrific 18 months of domestic violence. Finally free and clear of danger, but my life has unraveled…
What I needed was family, and a place to rest, and that is what my friend provided. A couple of days a week I would drag myself over to her house, plop myself on the couch and let her busy family life (four young children!) wash over me. What a gift it was. God puts the lonely in families, and Bambi and her brood adopted me warmly and gleefully.
Eventually I got up off the couch and began to make myself useful and for a season we raised our children together. Hannah even had her own high chair at their house, within which she somehow managed to get spaghetti sauce all over the back of her head!
There was something so healing, so restorative, about being welcomed into another’s home, life and family.
At our Community House we have a guest room. It’s the nicest room in the house – full of light….
We are so excited about the opportunity we have to enfold visitors into our little family here. A recent guest was apologizing about the inconvenience. “You don’t understand,” I said, “how much joy it gives us to be able to have you with us.”
Hospitality is healing, and deeply enriches both guest and host. I challenge you to try it…..