Anyone who knows me at all knows that hospitality is my jam. My table is where my purpose, passions, skills, resources, and the needs of my community intersect.
Hospitality has grown to be about so much more than hosting overnight travelers or having company over for dinner. It isn’t something I practice for one-time events and special occasions. Hospitality is my lifestyle.
Shauna Niequist, in her book “Present Over Perfect”, identifies the core of hospitality as offering grace in one hand and nourishment in the other to every soul who finds their way to our homes and our tables.
Grace and nourishment. Sacred gifts that can revive the most exhausted and weary of souls.
As hospitality became a part of the rhythm of my home, I began to witness glimpses of the Kingdom of God at work. Meaningful connections in my home here on earth, that reflect God’s home in the kingdom of heaven. I get to see others nourished by authentic conversation, and transformed by the grace that is passed around the table along with warm serving bowls as we listen and nod and say, “Me too”.
Part of my journey is learning that the joy I experience from my guests finding grace and nourishment at my table is not enough to sustain me in this important work for the long haul. I must learn to practice hospitality to my self as well.
Offering grace to my own soul with one hand, and nourishment with the other.
This is the only way that hospitality can be a beautiful, sustainable lifestyle – rather than a martyrdom. By being intentional to invest time and effort in the things that feed my own soul, not just the people gathered at my table.
I believe this practice is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels:
“One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?” Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” The religion scholar said, “A wonderful answer, Teacher! So lucid and accurate—that God is one and there is no other. And loving him with all passion and intelligence and energy, and loving others as well as you love yourself. Why, that’s better than all offerings and sacrifices put together!” When Jesus realized how insightful he was, he said, “You’re almost there, right on the border of God’s kingdom.” Mark 12: 28-34, The Message.
We love our neighbors, as. we. love. ourselves.
Self-care is not selfish, it’s necessary. Rest is not optional, it’s God’s design for filling us up so that we can continue to pour out. Grace is not a gift we only offer to others; it’s a gift we continually receive from God.
Have you ever noticed how horribly we can talk to ourselves? When I fail or make a mistake, I can berate myself with a cold, harshness that I would never speak to others. Why do we do this? It’s not glorifying or pleasing to God to tear ourselves down or curse ourselves. We too are his creation – beautifully and wonderfully made. And the grace and nourishment God calls me to share with others is for me as well.
Shauna Niequist writes, “You can rest. You don’t have to starve. The messages of the world will say, in no uncertain terms: ruin yourself, and starve yourself. Wring yourself out. Ignore your hunger, your soul, your sickness, your longing. Exhaustion and starvation are the twin virtues of that world, but I will not live there anymore. I will practice hospitality – the offering of grace and nourishment – to myself.”
If we chose to create a lifestyle of hospitality then we must fully engage in work that is challenging and at times tedious. Experience the abundant joy that comes from celebrating others blessings as well as help to carry their sorrows. And we must accept the opportunities for rest and refreshment that God will be faithful to weave into our path every day.
That’s practicing hospitality to ourselves.
And when we are loving God, loving others, AND taking care of our selves – the kingdom of God in near.