“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Exhaustion is another obstacle to hospitality; a very legitimate struggle that God often allows in our lives, perhaps to keep us from believing that we are His greatest gift to mankind.
When we have nothing left to give, we are tangibly reminded of the greatest news in all the world: our salvation does not depend on what we can do for God, but rather, on what God has done for us.
This message is the heart and purpose of hospitality, which means that even our limited abilities can testify to others about the sufficiency of Christ.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 9,10
There have been many seasons where we could not actively open our home to others due to our own human frailty (usually mine).
Sometimes exhaustion is physical (new babies, poor health); sometimes it’s mental (broken relationships, stress in the workplace, burdened by other cares); but, whether we’re in a place where we can show hospitality, or we find ourselves recipients of it, practicing or receiving hospitality is only effective as a tool in God’s hands when it is rooted in humility.
The moment we think we are good enough to serve, or too good to be served, it is not hospitality we are engaging in, but some expression of pride which has no place in hospitality’s purpose: to “hear and see and taste and feel authentic Christianity.” (Rosaria Butterfield)
I had complications with 5 out of 7 pregnancies, 2 of them required strict bed rest for 20 weeks. Between jaundice, RSV, a collapsed lung, and an emergency surgery for me at 5 weeks post-partum with our last baby, I spent most of her first two months in the world at the hospital. It was incredibly hard for me to sit back and watch other people clean our dirty bathroom, prepare us meals, and do our laundry.
Every moment I spent dwelling on my low estate, I felt humiliated and useless; every moment I spent looking at the situation for what it was – hands and feet delighting to be used as vessels of God’s love and mercy, my heart was warmed with gratitude.
Here was the King of kings, using ordinary people as instruments of His extraordinary love for ordinary, helpless me.
The nurses in our room noticed how well we were being looked after, and hospitality, though I was its receiver and not a giver, was a testament to the love of the Body of Christ.
We may not be in a season where inviting others into our home is feasible, but may this also be an encouragement: the attitude with which we allow others to demonstrate hospitality to us in our exhaustion and need can also be a picture of Christ’s love to the watching world.
When we reject hospitality, we say “I am good enough in my own strength;” when we receive it, we say, “I need Someone greater than me, and He is so willing to help.”
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” 1 Timothy 2: 3-6