Yesterday morning, before a three hour afternoon of summer planning with five people and our nine children and a two hour dinner with thirty people in my house, I made the coffee and helped unload the trailer at the church with more people. I then made a mad dash across the railroad tracks to pick up people for service and upon returning, I had a moment of brazen humanity in the middle of the children’s ministry room.
“I don’t like people today,” I said to a friend. “I don’t want anyone else to talk to me or touch me or sit in my personal space. I don’t want to hear one more hardship or one more need or have one more person ask me for anything. I’m a dead woman walking. Look at me. I haven’t been alone for five minutes in three weeks and I have absolutely nothing else to say or one more thing to give.”
She looked at me, sorta wild-eyed and I couldn’t blame her. What could she say to the pastor’s wife, with three tables in the front yard, whose entire life’s message is Love Your Neighbor?
But I meant every word of what I’d said and every word that I hadn’t been brave enough to say.
I. Was. Done.
I’ve had more people in my house in the last seven days than I have in the last month and this morning, I am so tired I could cry. It’s not the physical exhaustion that’s got me so whipped, it’s the emotional and spiritual weight of rubbing up close to human beings that’s got me wanting to curl up in a ball and sleep off the hangover. I’ve hosted a plethora of people for afternoon snacks, early lunches, dinner, dessert, coffee and a small group. I’ve cooked food and delivered food. I’ve hosted new neighbors on my front porch. People have dropped by more times than I can count.
Even the online world has been too much for me. I’ve left Facebook messages unread for fear that someone would ask me a question or call me out on something. I’ve not returned text messages for the same reasons. I’ve avoided looking people in the eye at Target and even avoided the principal at our elementary school because I know she wants to me help start a PTA in the fall. I can’t write because my brain feels like a muddled pile of broken people with broken lives living in a broken world.
So many words over so many days and my soul is craving a permanent escape.
It’s craving an escape because I’ve said yes to every single person needing my time or my home to the extent that my body hasn’t slowed down enough to give my soul time to get away with Jesus for more than a minute.Without Jesus, my hospitality, even if well-intentioned- is little more than a transaction of food and a half-hearted attempt at being nice.
And the world doesn’t need one more shared table with one more empty person offering good food and pleasantries.
Trying to make space in our homes to introduce people to Jesus is impossible when we fail to take the time to make space for our own souls to seek Jesus first.
It only took three weeks to move me from a place of desiring to gather people around my table to a place of desiring to run and hide. Three weeks of non-stop human connection with little to no Jesus communion was enough to send my flesh into an uproar and my soul into a revolt. Three weeks without healthy boundaries had left me with zero compassion.
All I had to offer anyone was a table full of food and a steady stream of surface conversation. A mere transaction over a few hours.
But hospitality isn’t a transaction. It is recognizing the imago Dei in another person and entering into a place of vulnerability in order to make space for the Holy Spirit to move. And we quench the movement of the Holy Spirit when we fail to commune with Jesus before gathering around the table.
The paramount act of hospitality is being welcomed into the family of God through the death and burial of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to make a way for us to be welcomed into his family. He instituted the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine so that every time we gathered around our tables to share a meal, we would remember and celebrate His body and shed blood.
We cannot break the tie that binds Jesus to every meal we share in our homes, but we can unravel it a bit.
We can say yes to every good thing and unknowingly reject Jesus with every yes.
We can gather people in the name of Jesus and then forsake them by never recognizing the image of God in them.
We can feed our neighbors and never make space for the Holy Spirit to join us at the table.
We can call our open door hospitality and never welcome anyone into the family of God.
Or we can choose Jesus over every good thing and pray that as we open our front door less, Jesus makes more of our less.