Hospitality

Hospitality is a great virtue.

I imagine we could all list times we have been blessed by other people’s hospitality as they invited us to dinner, or to their house for the afternoon, or maybe even housing you overnight between flights in another city.

And the Bible commands us to be hospitable (1 Peter 4:9: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”)

But it’s not as easy as it sounds.

First off, I don’t even have a house to invite people over too. I live with my parents. So how can I be hospitable if I don’t have a home to invite people to? Now, when I was housesitting, I had a house. But I still didn’t invite anyone because I feared my cooking was not up to standard, and because I didn’t think I could play the role of host like I’ve seen my Mum and Dad do.

Now, there are several answers to those problems, such as “Get over it!” and

Abraham Entertaining Angels Unaware

Abraham Entertaining Angels Unaware

“Learn how to cook!” and communicating with your folks so they can help you invite people to your house, because it is your house too. But as good as those answers are, ultimately these problems stem from the wrong understanding of hospitality. Hospitality is not “having visitors over”. That’s just a way of expressing it.

Hospitality is using your resources to intentionally create a space where other people can feel loved. It’s easy to see how inviting people for dinner can do that. But we can do that when we are out of the home as well.

For instance, listening is an incredibly hospitable act. When we listen to other people, then they feel loved. More specifically, they feel safe, because who they are or what they are saying is being shown respect. Your “listening ear”, to borrow the metaphor, creates a space where it is ok for them to show you a little bit of themselves. 

Conversely, if we are poor listeners, then we are inhospitable. If we do not pay them much attention, then they left feeling that their ideas or experiences aren’t valued, so it’s not safe for them to share them. But if they do not share, then they are isolated from other people, and without that connection, how can they feel loved?

Listening is hospitable.

In exactly the same way, kindness is hospitable. If the words we say or the acts we do show them that who they are or what they are saying or dong is valued, then we’re saying that it safe to be and do those things here. With that safety, they can dare to express a little bit of themselves. And with that freedom, we feel loved.

So I want to be a hospitable person. Yes, I probably should learn to cook (my mum is reading this after all!), but more than that, I want to be a walking dinner invitation, so that how I talk, listen and carry myself wherever I go says: “pull up a chair, make yourself at home. You’re safe here.” That’s very hard work. Some people are better at it than others. The key, then, for the rest of us, is to watch the good listeners and figure out how to use our unique skills to follow suit.

Advertisements

Suppose There Was a God…

Suppose there was a God. An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing being who is good and loving. In fact, He is so good and loving that He is not so much the personification of love and goodness but rather, love and goodness are conceptualisations of His nature.

Let’s suppose that this God’s definition of love is giving to the other person, not loving oneself. Therefore, we can deduce that such a God is a relational being, someone who desires to love another being and be loved by them.

Such a God would not be satisfied with abstract love. He’d want actual relationships and actual acts of expressing love to other people, because He is love, and He is a person, not an idea, and his love is about giving to another person.

Now, what sort of reality would this all-powerful God create?

Clearly, He’d create a world intended for relationship. This God is a person, so His love is person-based. He wouldn’t be interested in creating an abstract world of airy-fairy ideals like Plato’s Cave. That’s not how He thinks of love. He is love, and He is a person. Bring the two together, and you imagine He’d create other persons capable of expressing and receiving love, as a subdued reflection of what is God is like.

God and Adam

 “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:27

And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone…” – Genesis 2:16

But this God is not a simplistic God. He is love, and His love is focussed on the other person. So obviously we’re talking about a God with a healthy appreciation for diversity. So we can imagine that His reality would be filled with a great diversity of things. He’d be very creative.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…” –Colossians 1:16

The weird thing about this God is how, in other-based love, He balances order and diversity. Creating reality is an expression of His love, so there is an overall coherency and theme to His works. But His love is focussed on the other, so there’s huge diversity of things all designed to fit in the overall theme. There is order and freedom at the same time.

“But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed, there are many members, yet one body.” –1 Corinthians 12:18-20

This God is incredibly committed to love as personal, relational love, not an abstracted theory. So, naturally, He’s going to design a reality where love is embodied in a physical creation. In this reality, love isn’t an abstract idea. It’s something that is expressed and shown through actions and creations which have a physical, tangible form. There is no escape. The conclusion is unavoidable: love is not abstract. Love is a person.

“Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” – James 2:22

And what sort of God do we have here?

This God is the Christian God. The reality we just described, is the reality the Bible says He made. That reality is the way we’re supposed to live.

I haven’t unpacked that, but that changes a lot of stuff about how we see the world, even for us Christians, who theoretically already believe this stuff. Embodied love as the central tenet of reality. It changes everything.

We don’t have a meaningless, heartless, mechanical reality, and we don’t have an airy-fairy spiritualism. We have an embodied love that is to shape all our interactions with reality, others, and God. That really is a game-changer.

Stress

I am studying for a Bachelor of Arts from Macquarie University online.

But for the last while, especially the last week or so, my internet connection has become extremely unreliable.

It is very difficult to be an online university student without the online.

The internet isn’t completely dead. It just dies at regular intervals, resurrects itself for 5, 10, 15 minutes and then dies again. So I’m rushing to polish off and publish this blog post before the internet dies again!

Even Batman understands...

Even Batman understands…

Not only does this state of affairs make it difficult to submit assignments on time but it becomes quite difficult research for those assignments or even spend enough time on the university website to become familiar with what my study load needs to look like.

As a result, I haven’t got much university work done this term.

I haven’t had any late submissions or anything. In fact, that is part of the problem. Both units have a very strange study load where most of the assignments are due at the end of term. In one sense that’s a good thing because it means I don’t face immediate pressure now with the internet nigh-dead, but with the internet nigh-dead, I haven’t a very clear idea of what exactly I’m supposed to be doing, especially since there aren’t any assignments due right now.

This is making me stressed.

Realising that the unproductivity and uncertainty was stressing me out gave me pause, because I don’t think I stress very often.

I do thrive on the pressure of a nearing deadline. But pressure and stress affect me very differently.

Pressure stimulates me. It sets my mind racing and gives me the drive to finally get around to achieving what I need to do.

Stress exhausts me. At times I feel like my heart is tense. I can’t detect any raise in heart-rate, so that’s probably just psychological. That tense feeling just sits there in the back of my chest and is tiring and unpleasant.

If it gets this bad, I'll let you know.

If it gets this bad, I’ll let you know.

I’m also now more easily exasperated by new demands on my time. So far it’s been nothing I couldn’t easily resolve internally by reminding myself to be more mature, but that initial reaction is still there. That’s a problem because I chose to study online largely so I can still contribute to family life. Family life is all about unscheduled interruptions. These are stressing me out because they are taking me away from this study problem which I probably wouldn’t be able to address even if I cut myself off from my family commitments, because the internet is dead.

I’ve also had to intentionally set about getting into a mental space suitable for spending time with other people. It wasn’t hard to do so, but I did have to intentionally think about it. That’s unusual.

Now, I am most certainly not on the verge of an emotional breakdown. I’m only a little stressed.

But I am stressed, and it has been a valuable exercise in recognising that I am stressed, why I am stressed and what stress looks like for me, even if it’s only a minor instance. It’s probably better to learn about stress through a minor experience than a big one anyway.

Now I know what is going on and why, I have to think up ways to fix it.