Wisdom lights up a person’s face, softening its harshness. ~ Ecclesiastes 8:1b
There is great possibility in face-to-face encounter. ~ Jean Fleming, Pursue the Intentional Life
Have you ever thought about how much your appearance and expressions are communicating something to those around you?
What is it that you have been saying when you haven’t been speaking?
Jean says it this way:
Those of us who know God, who have been saved from destruction and eternal lostness, who carry around in our bodies the treasure of knowing the gospel and the Holy Spirit Himself, should radiate something of that wonder.” (p. 84, Pursue the Intentional Life)
Our countenance reveals who we are, and a radiant countenance can reveal Whose we are.
The difference between forcing a smile and something birthed in our interior places (when God removes our stony, stubborn hearts and replaces them with tender, responsive hearts (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)) is ev-er-y-thing.
Our pastor once offered this simple definition for wisdom: seeing our lives, the world and circumstance through God’s eyes. How I long to gain the kind of Ecclesiastical wisdom that “puts light in my eyes and gives gentleness to my words and manners.” (Ecclesiastes 8:1 MSG)
A ministry of countenance is less about what we say or do (though these things are important) and more about how we speak and respond–
- Active listening vs. passive or distracted listening
- Being fully present, interested and observant
- Maintaining eye contact
- Demonstrating kindness, love, encouragement, empathy, patience and concern with our words and body language
And it hit me that a ministry of countenance is true hospitality–when someone leaves my company feeling better about themselves than about me!
We don’t have to be entertaining guests in our home to extend hospitality; it’s demonstrated every time we offer friendly and generous treatment to others.
A ministry of countenance goes hand in hand with a hospitable spirit. Together they have the potential and power to impact everyone they touch for the better.
The opposite is true, too. An inhospitable spirit and dour countenance can crush the heart it touches.
During the year we lived in Germany, we took advantage of our location to travel around Europe as much as we could afford. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in London, happening upon a Remembrance Day parade during an afternoon stroll. I’ll never forget a conversation I overheard while smushed among the parade-going throng–
“…speak our language…!” said a very angry man with a British accent. I turned toward the hostile man to see him speaking to a younger man of a different ethnicity. I have no idea what prompted the initial exchange, but the younger man politely replied in heavily accented but understandable English, “Excuse me?”
The Londoner replied even more hatefully, “If you’re going to be in this country, learn to speak the language!” The young man shook his head and looked down, an incredulous smile masking nerves (I think).
There was no where for anyone to go, and most people overhearing the conversation looked embarrassed or uncomfortable.
The older man was one of the most inhospitable people I’ve ever observed. His countenance was an ominous cloud.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Ute. I met her one day while shopping in our German hometown.
“Excuse me, but are you Tad’s wife?” Her English was impeccable, fringed in a German accent.
I looked at this woman, obviously confused at how she could possibly know me (or who I was married to). Ute explained she had overheard me talking to the sales clerk about my son. She worked as a translator for my husband’s company and was aware his wife and son had accompanied him to Germany. In a small town, it wasn’t difficult for her to figure out who I was.
Ute’s friendliness and kindness changed the course of my day. Her countenance was light and joy, and soon enough we’d become fast friends. It was hardly a surprise when I discovered she was a Christian, something not nearly as common in Southern Bavaria as it is in the Bible Belt where I’ve lived all my life.Hospitality in its simplest form knows no bounds. It goes wherever we go (or it should). As children of the King, we are loved wholly and without reservation, and that should cause our faces to shine.
I firmly believe “there is great possibility in face-to-face encounter” and I want those possibilities to be lavished with grace and goodness and kindness and mercy and friendliness and generosity . I pray that my countenance is a conduit for what Jesus has done for me – loved me beyond understanding – so that my only response is to love others fully and well.
Your turn: Did anyone come to mind when you read the words “radiant countenance” or “hospitable spirit”? What is it about her/him that draws you to them? How have you seen hospitality expressed in other cultures or countries than your own? Don’t be shy–I’d love to hear any thoughts that come to mind!