Monday, January 27, 2014

Hospitality for the Hurting

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 If you're a human being, you've felt pain.  We all have - and it is a time when the Body of Christ can shine brightest if we take advantage of that opportunity to love on one another.

I have been so blessed to be the recipient of that kind of love a number of times:

When we lost a baby and a dear friend came by to see if we needed anything - and then insisted on taking any kids who wanted to go with her to her house for food and a few hours rest for mama.

When The Cowboy was sick and we had to cancel our part in the Lord's Day sledding outing and the husband of the aforementioned friend came over and actually did The Cowboy's chores.

When my grandmother died and a friend's husband drove my pregnant self and 3 year old daughter from Montana to Oregon so I wouldn't have to do it alone.

We've all been there.  We've all been hurting.  We've also known others were hurting and wondered what we could do to help.  If you're like me, too often the wonder gave way to inaction.

I'm trying to change that.

Here is what a friend wrote when I asked for examples of hospitality:

It was after our 3rd child was born.  We were new in Canada, far from family and he'd spent so much time in the hospital but was now home.  As soon as he was released from the hospital it was like the emotional trapdoor I'd been holding closed (so I could be strong, so I could cope, etc.) was released and I fell headlong through. I was a hormonal, emotional mess...for months.  And, then, in the midst of that, we nearly lost him again due to a nasty RSV/pneumonia combination that the doctor kept telling me I was wrong about until it was very nearly too late.  

All of this was happening during a very cold winter (normal for here but I was used to Mississippi) and so I wasn't getting out much but a Christian woman at my church would check on me once a week and either see if I wanted a visit or was interested in coming over.  I wasn't able to keep up with the house well being in the state I was in and would often go over there with the kids.  For an hour or two she would just listen and talk and help my kids with whatever they needed and generally let me just relax.  She would pray for me and model Christian parenting during a time when I was barely functioning.  It meant the world to me.  Her home was generally very clean when we came over but sometimes it wasn't and that also meant the world to me.  Being allowed to see that not everything was in its place all the time and that her love for me wasn't just a show she was putting on meant a ton.  Those visits, which lasted for a few desperate months were a means Christ used in helping me through a very, very hard time. 

I loved this friend's story.  It's raw, it's real - and it so beautifully illustrates the love that Christians are to have for one another.  I think this story has the key elements of hospitality:

1.  Care enough to know.  This woman took the time to notice that my friend needed something.  What I have found (having been on both sides of the equation) is if you make the time to inquire about someone, you can often tell from the response (physical, if not verbal) if help is needed.  In our culture today, we are so busy - and interest in real relationships is often rare - sometimes just asking opens a window into the soul of the person who needs help.

2.  Do what works for you, but also for the person in need.  If all I can swing is ordering a pizza to be sent over, that is certainly better than nothing.  It is always nice to know that someone cares enough to do something nice for you.  Even better, though, is to figure out what the other person really needs.  Sometimes a visit is overwhelming, but a trip out of the house is a blessing.  Sometimes getting all of the kids together for play time while you visit is just what the proverbial doctor ordered.  Sometimes some alone-time for mama is what is needed.  The only way to know is to ask - and to be sensitive to the answer.  Many women feel bashful asking for what they need - you might need to encourage her to let you know.  (Many years ago, when I was home from the hospital after giving birth, a dear friend brought me a meal and then said, "What is the dirtiest job you have to do that you're most dreading?"  When I was way too embarrassed to tell her she said, "if you don't tell me, I'm going to just go clean the toilet."  Talk about true sister love!)

3.  Live out love. 
James 2:15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

It's nice to truly inquire into the well-being of another.  When there's a need, we should absolutely pray for the one in need.  But, James tells us that to do nothing about it actively is to have a dead faith.  Sometimes, all you really do have to offer is prayer.  Sometimes, the situation is such, that there's nothing physical you really do have to offer.  Rarely, though, is that the case.  If nothing else, most of us really can provide a card, a call, a visit, and/or a meal. 

Loving the hurting is tangible ways is absolutely the heart of God.  I am still struck by the shortest passage in the Bible.  Upon seeing the utter sadness of Mary & Martha upon the loss of their brother, "Jesus wept."  (John 11:35)  God has a very soft heart for the hurting - and God-on-earth didn't just weep with His friends, He did what was in His power to do to alleviate their hurting and show them the love of God.  Of course, we're not capable of raising people from the dead, but we are capable of bringing hope to the hurting by reminding them of God's love in our words and in our deeds.  We're not only capable, as the Body of Christ, we're called to do so.

Other posts in this Hospitality Series:
Hospitality: It's a Command
What to Bring to Potluck and 5 Tips of Potluck Etiquette
Hospitality at Home



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