It started in such a small way. One evening after football practice, our teen boys barged through the door. I could smell them before I could hear them (think “rotten potato buried in the bottom of your pantry” kind of odor), and they announced that one or two new football friends were joining us for dinner.
Without warning, one guy became two, which doubled to four, by which the multiplication process snowballed and finally, with eight high schoolers in addition to my own, I prayed a full on food-stretching miracle over my five loaves and two fish disguised as pasta.
“You know guests are always welcome, but a little heads up would be appreciated.” I growled in their sweaty ear.
If you’re envisioning sweet, Beauty and the Beast’s Belle, frolicking and joyfully singing, “Be Our Guest” alongside her dishes and candlesticks, rest assured that enthusiasm remained in the movie. I was ready to break up with all boys — yes, even my sons if one more stomped through the door.
While that first meal indicated the start of a long football season, it launched the beginning of a more significant harvest. There are all kinds of seasons, in sports and life, but this one whipped through like a hurricane. The thing about a powerful storm is that once the sky brightens and you clear the debris, glimpses of beauty are left behind.
That’s how I felt about that season. The storms pelted, the muddy field trampled from the wear and tear of hard practices and life lessons, yet those months served as an irrigation system ripening the field for planting.
We spend time here at (in)courage leaning into the importance of what biblical hospitality looks like in varying seasons (and we have the opportunity to dig more into its theology in the upcoming online Bible study of Just Open the Door), but simply it’s small, ordinary steps of faithfulness offered to Him right where God has you planted. With no more excuses of why we can’t fit what’s right in front of us into our already maxed-out schedules, it’s our next thing offered to Him.
For me, the Lord used hungry teens (since I already needed to feed my own), an open table, and our crazy, busy sports commitment to point us to Himself.
Ranging in age from fifteen to nineteen, these guys attended a local boarding school where our sons had joined their football team. Anxious to get off campus a few nights a week and hungry for more than physical food, our packed table represented five different states with teens from varying social, racial, and economic backgrounds.
Those days were loud, tiring, and unpredictable (says every mom ever), and by evening I fell in bed, spent. Yet God slid in everyday reminders to keep on keeping on; it’s only for a season. I learned that flexibility is required for much more than gymnastics, and when my friends would say, “That stresses me out thinking about it,” I agreed. It stressed me out too. In fact, I could easily come up with any number of reasons not to set the table and all would have been acceptable, but in those moments, He challenged my heart, “Do you desire to maintain your status quo or do you desire to make a Kingdom difference in the lives of these young men?”
I could choose ease and comfort, or I could take the more courageous route and create community. I couldn’t do both, so I reminded myself of the quote by Goethe:
Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.
Small acts of faithfulness, camouflaged as frozen pizza, pasta and periodic moments of pandemonium, were what needed to be done for that season.
But something else bubbled up during those months. We laughed hard — really hard — around that thrift store table. We listened to lots of stories and challenged preconceived notions. We broke down social barriers and asked hard questions. Those months marked me in significant ways. I wish I could wrap this all up with a pretty, pink bow, but honestly, I lost touch with many of those young men. I have no idea of the impact those meals had on most of their lives, but God does.
Sometimes I’ve opened our door with fairy dust covered pompoms and assumed that I could feed everyone all the way to Jesus. With that last touch down scored, they’d take a knee and name Jesus as Lord. It happens in the movies like that, doesn’t it? I was discouraged if there wasn’t some big ah-ha moment from my service, but hello, Jen, you’re not responsible for the outcome.
Opening our door is never about us. Sometimes it’s simply about “learning to love what must be done,” giving up control, and presenting our seemingly insignificant offerings to Him. It’s about stewarding the one thing before us well and in the process pointing others to Him. It’s about glorifying God and making Him known.
Part of leading and walking this road of welcome is the reminder that throughout a harvest season, the farmer isn’t always responsible for each step. We planted and watered for a short season, then we handed off the plow. There’s nothing we can do to force the flourishing. The gospel isn’t about us doing or trying or proclaiming anything that will make our will happen. It’s a willingness to partner with Him and surrender that one, small seed by loving others as best we know how. So while we may never see the end result, we still begin the plowing process because beauty sprouts from one small, forgotten seed.
Paul assures us of that truth. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” and if it’s good enough for him, it’s just right for me.
Remembering that this planting process looks different for all of us, what is the one small act of faithfulness that you are choosing to tend today?
Hospitality is about stewarding the one thing before us well and in the process pointing others to God. -@beautyandbedlam: Click To Tweet