Day #13: Hospitality

He looked up and suddenly saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to greet them…
-Genesis 18:2

Recently, I asked an acquaintance to coffee, someone I’d known for years, a little-known but long-seen acquaintance who always seemed older, cooler, more confident, more competent. I was hesitant to ask her, and I felt awkward and imposing the whole (almost three hour) conversation. When she reached out later and said, “Let’s connect again soon,” it occurred to me for the first time that perhaps I was not an inconvenience in her day. I was surprised to realize she was not making a charitable indulgence to me, but actually experience a mutual sense of connection. In a culture that worships busyness, it often feels like a burden to ask someone for their time or company. In Genesis, Abraham boldly and effusively welcomes the strangers who pass by him in the desert. On sight, he offers water, bread, a place to rest. He offers hospitality without worrying about what else these strangers might have on their tight agenda or what he will do if they say no. Turns out, the strangers are actually God. If even God had time for a drink of water with whiny Abraham, who are we to assume our hospitality is inconvenient? Hospitality is the choice to move through the world assuming other people welcome connection. It’s the courage and the resilience to not wait around for someone else to make the first move.

Takeaway: How would you move differently today if you acted like everyone you met genuinely welcomed the chance to connect with you? As if you were not an inconvenience in their day? It’s easy to talk yourself out of reaching out to others. We avoid connection, for fear of imposing on people who seem far cooler and more together than we are. And yet research overwhelmingly concludes Americans (and others) have high rates of loneliness. Today, extend hospitality to someone. Whether it’s buying coffee for the stranger behind you in line or speaking to an acquaintance you’ve always wanted to make a deeper connection with, find a way to extend Abraham levels of hospitality. For today, believe people will welcome your invitation as if you’re offering them a shady tree in the hot desert. (And if they don’t–well, you’ve got 12 days of resilience behind you to remember how awesome you are anyway.)

 

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

Our Generation Didn’t Ruin the Institution of Marriage

I considered titling this post “Everything I Know about Marriage I Learned from Beyonce”–but I don’t even have space to explain how true that is.

Last week, I fell into a conversation with several seniors in the church about how the younger generation–my generation–had ruined the institution of marriage: cohabitation, quick divorces, and promiscuity had eroded an important and valuable way of life. With none too much politeness, but perhaps the most politeness you will see in the next 800 words, I cut the conversation: “We didn’t ruin marriage. We have a deep respect for it. And that’s why we’re not doing it as often or as quickly as your generation did.”

It’s easy, in our cultural environment, to stay generationally segregated–in college dorms, retirement communities, day care centers. It’s equally easy to create a generational echo chamber around particular issues. But the idea that my generation–or the one before it–ruined the institution of marriage is shortsighted and destructive. Continue reading