For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)
Sometimes it is easier to see a thing by looking at its contrast. Hospitality does not look like this: that every duty seems stale and dreary. Being past our shelf life should be every child of God’s first clue that something is wrong in their world. Oswald Chambers says, “Being born again from above is a perennial, perpetual and eternal beginning; a freshness all the time in thinking and in talking and in living, the continual surprise of the life of God. Staleness is an indication of something out of joint with God”
But when you you have been renewed at the throne of God, all the world seems green and golden, and love for our neighbor is as natural and unthinking as breathing is to us. Hospitality becomes a way of life.
Today, for example, it was a thrill to make my husband’s sandwich for lunch—it was a treasure hunt in the fridge! Oh, look, some avocado here, and some garlic-roasted chicken there, (and I hate it) but he will really like this Swiss cheese! What a glorious mess the kitchen was, of balsamic vinegar splashed on the counter, and bits of lettuce, and pits and peels everywhere. And all for a little bitty sandwich. But I was so glad to serve my King, through pleasing one of His servants.
And when that servant of God served me by insisting I take the last of the yummy Trader Joe’s Jumbo Raisin Medley; when he took instead regular old Sun Maid ones for his oatmeal–well, it very nearly brought me to tears. This kind of back and forth love, that is so satisfying when tasted in the community of believers, imitates the reciprocal love of the Trinity. Grudem says of this kind of hospitable behavior,
“This attribute of God shows that it is part of his nature to give of himself in order to bring about blessing or good for others. .. This eternal love of the Father for the Son, the Son for the Father, and of both for the Holy Spirit makes heaven a world of love and joy because each person of the Trinity seeks to bring joy and happiness to the other two.”
I had met with my Father this morning, and though the time was brief, my soul was refreshed with his Word, his Son, I had got my soul happy in Jesus and he had given me the hope I had so desperately sought from him the previous night. My heavy burden of affliction was lifted, and how easy and light the yoke is, when Jesus joins you in wearing it — the carpenter who has lovingly crafted it with his own nail- scarred hands.
And when I find all the uses of this wondrous world He has created to be so weary, stale and flat, it is time for this unprofitable servant to repent, and be thankful for the afflictions and the trials He uses to conform me to the shape of his own Son.
How I cherish now those troubles that I used to chafe against– like the struggles with depression and anxiety — and now I continually pray that God would not let me waste any hard thing that serves to draw me near to Him. And though I never thought I would see His goodness in the land of the living back in my murmuring days, I see His goodness now, everyday–when repentance is my daily way of life.
My husband is an engineer who can talk with great authority about the manufacturing processes of continuous improvement. I am sorry to say he is married to an authority on continuous failure. Because of my pride there has been Endless failure in my life, and endless falling on my face before the Lord. I have been pressed down. But God raises me up every time, and gives me a good measure of his love, given back to me as I return to him. It is all pressed down, shaken together, spilling out all over, and this joy he commands me to pour into the laps of the aliens and strangers he draws near to me. Because hospitality is this: walking daily in the Spirit, down the highways and byways with our Lord, and calling a welcome to the down-and-broken-hearted, inviting them back into God’s messy kitchens.
Because this is the real God-given hunger of a prodigal’s heart: someone to understand me, and love me the way I am! And then a warm welcoming home to enter when he has returned to his senses. What a wonder it is to a famished soul when this kind of food is finally tasted, as I know very well from experience. As Lewis says,”We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” -C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
God made us visceral creatures, and we can’t comprehend the true thing until we try it for ourselves, Psalm 34 invites us to, “Taste and see, the goodness of the Lord.” When we truly savor Him, we understand the falseness, and the vacuity of what we have been previously satisfied with. Like the emptiness of purely emotional experiences, for example.
Because our daily walk with the Spirit is not precipitated by some overwhelming feelings, or some longed for Outpouring from a faraway place that is imparted to us. That is what an ungrateful, prodigal son looks for. But a Spirit filled life is best lived as a life of an obedient slave to a loving Master. It is found best in the monotonous daily dying to self, and living only for a loving father’s gracious will to be done. It is found best by staying in hard places instead of escaping them for a strange land, and inviting the stranger into a sometime messy life. Do you, oh prodigal child, long for some prosperity by going to those far away preachers? Proverbs says “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
When we know we have worshiped our God in Spirit and Truth, and have gone out from His Throne room with the Mary and Martha in us no longer a dichotomy, but one whole and startlingly beautiful creature whose one resolve is to give our neighbors a delicious taste of His goodness too, then perhaps we should just be very still before the Lord. We are stale. Let us cry out before Him to make the inward and the outward, the public and the private, not divided, but entirely of a whole. Let us be like George Mueller, who entreated us:
I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek above all things to have your souls truly happy in God Himself! Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. (Vol. 2, p. 731).
Find Jesus in a quiet place, and then go out and find God’s orphans.
Living this way continually, being continually refreshed and continually happy in Jesus, you can go out confidently into God’s messy kitchens to make a hungry world some really good sandwiches.