We are exhausted, the kids are cranky, the house is trashed. This is par for the course after a weekend of 'Bed and Breakfast'. The condition is not unique, but it is dispiriting. After all, why would we clean up after ourselves during Bed and Breakfast? No, let's don't do the dishes, let's talk. Don't pick up the toys-just play with your friends...after all, we don't get time like this often. No room for Martha around here...this is fellowship.
Where in the definition of fellowship does it mention that no work can be done, that we have to just sit around and visit? With this definition, it is no wonder we 'never have time' to get together with folks. When did hospitality and fellowship start to so resemble entertaining? As much as I want to say that I want it back, I am aware that this is something I never had. We are walking a new path here. An old path.
In our journey, our newest endeavors on the hospitality and fellowship front have involved at times even harder work than entertaining. This work is often physically more demanding, but emotionally and spiritually much more strengthening. It is work made easier by many hands and hearts. Instead of 'wasting' time we are redeeming the time.
There is something about hands being busy that opens hearts and loosens tongues. There is something in being served that encourages and refreshes. There is something about serving that feels like a worthwhile expenditure of our time. The old two birds with one stone method of fellowship and hospitality is service.
Now, we pack a casserole and take the whole family to go help cut down our neighbor's tree, (or put siding on a friend's house, right, Kati?) talking, laughing and teaching the children all in one fell swoop. We work together, break bread together and grow together. This is fellowship and this is redeeming the time.
One girlfriend walks in my house and immediately picks up a broom-every time she comes. Instead of my pride condemning me about the state of my kitchen floor, her actions free me to share about the day-to-day struggles of raising a large family. This is fellowship.
The most impressive compliment I ever heard about a mother-of-many is that she served guests peanut butter and jelly with no apologies. Her warm welcome and refusal to be embarrassed by what she had, profoundly affected her guests. That is hospitality. It blesses like no entertaining ever could.
On a routine errand, I stop by another friend's house, she washes me a cup and fixes me tea, never minding the dishes piled high. This is hospitality. After the tea, I wash the dishes while she unloads a burden. This is fellowship.
The days of barn raising and quilting bees need not be over. As long as people are feeling overwhelmed by life, as long as there is work to do that can be eased by a neighbor's help, relationships can be built or strengthened. True hospitality, real fellowship, and valuable service can all go hand-in-hand.
There are still occasions for that special dinner with scented candles, pressed table linens and all the cozy touches to make it a memorable meal. We especially like to bless visiting missionaries with all the wonderful comforts of our home, with no other agenda than to encourage one another. (Well, that and hearing the great stories!) But it is very freeing to know that this is not a requirement for fellowship.
It is good to know that the fellowship can be just as rich over a sink of dishes (especially with a suds fight) as they can in an immaculate family room. Fellowship and hospitality can come in a vast array of shades, shades that will look different for different folks in different seasons. Casual or formal, perfectly clean house or not-so-perfectly clean house, home-cooked food or delivery pizza...it's all good if done for Him.
I am thankful for the journey we have experienced. Although the season in which we find ourselves now is rich, and we may even revisit the other methods from time to time, by His grace...
I'm never going back to 'the show'.
For Part One of this Series, click here.
For Part Two of this Series, click here.