Weird times. I had nothing in my memory bank to help me process through these changes.
During that first week home the long hours were filled with activities that eased anxiety and helped me escape from reality. I retreated to Netflix, tended to my home and read.
Before the stay-at-home orders restricted daily activities and even before COVID-19 invaded my thoughts, I bought a book on hospitality. "The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World" by Rosaria Butterfield was a new perspective on hospitality that I was excited to read. But reading a book on hospitality during a time of social distancing had me asking more questions and wondering what or even how was this book going to be relevant.
I pressed on. And after turning pages and completing chapters a table was set out for me with a simple purpose that nourished my hungry heart.
I am one for setting a table. Paper plates, china, colorful bowls or mismatched plates, doesn't matter. It's all for the purpose of gathering people together, strangers meeting strangers, a small community where connection heals, people are loved and accepted, and souls and stomachs are nourished.
But Rosaria, she set a table for me and invited me in, into her life, into her community, into her heart. She told me her story, the memories that shaped her, the decisions that set a course for her life and the detours she took along the way. She shared her thoughts and beliefs, her pain and heartaches and most importantly she pointed me to the Author from which she finds her purpose in her radically ordinary hospitality way of life.
I found myself desperate to sit down with her and ask her questions like:
How do you make sense of this social distancing?
How do you practice this radial yet ordinary hospitality in these times?
What does life look like for you now?
How can I adapt what you do and practice radical ordinary hospitality in my home, my community and my church in ways that meet the needs around me?
She talked about the Nextdoor app. Through it I have been able to bless my neighbors and be blessed by them as well as participate in sharing encouraging words or putting a bear in my window for kids to go on a bear hunt in the neighborhood during walks with their family. She talked about bedside hospitality, of which I am too familiar, and she reminded me that God is "the stability of your times." (Is. 33:6) She talked about grief in children when things are suddenly different around you. She says, ". . . play is a vital part of grief." As a teacher I get that. With the changes in the world my students don't need an overabundance of school work to mimic a school day, what they need is time to process and kids process through "play." In the conclusion she says, "Christians are not fearful hoarders: we are fearless givers." How prophetic is that!
When Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself but that love in the past has manifested it's ways in coffee shops, community gatherings and most often around the table, a real time radically ordinary hospitality must find new ways to love.
I'm working on that part, as are so many of us. However, this blessing of being offered a place at this author's table has been the purpose I did not foresee, that nourishment I didn't know I was so hungry for, the company I longed for.
An authors purpose in the various books out there are multifaceted. Some take us on a journey to faraway places, some open doors into a whole new world, some inform and others invite you into their lives. Those are my favorite reads.
Books have a beginning and an end. People have a beginning and an end. This part of our story is only that, a part. Our past is different than today and who knows what our future holds, but it WILL be different than today.
I will probably read a few books during this time. They will take me on an adventure or teach me something new. However there is one book I never tire of. That is my Bible. I love the history, the people, the stories of redemption, the miracles, and the invitation to live life with a radically ordinary hospitality that gives hope, healing and purpose to our lives. Rosaria says it best:
And that is what the Bible always does.
It tells the whole story.
And the whole story is one of multi-directional hope -
of past and present and future, of what will come to pass,
and of what must be fulfilled in order for hope to manifest.
Yes, but if you have read the book you know what happens.
Unfortunately we don't know how this pandemic will end, we don't know what tomorrow or even next year will bring, we don't know the details of the end of our story, but if we have read the Book we know there is hope and a purpose through the trials.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, and are called according to His purpose for them.
Blessings to you from at least 6 feet away!