Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Church in America and a Lesson in Radical Hospitality

We've been staying with some friends.

It's a little unexpected for them and for us.

But here we are.

I'm not going to mention them by name, in case they wouldn't want that, but I'll tell you a bit about them.

Firstly - I am in awe.

I am in awe of how good people can be.

And how far I still have to go on a personal level - when it comes to goodness.  When it comes to hospitality.  When it comes to giving and receiving.  When it comes to living in community.

My parents had a lot of youth over in their younger years when they were youth leaders and I was small.  I can remember teenagers coming over a lot.  Getting their prom pictures taken on our front porch...  When we'd have a revival service at the church the evangelist would often stay at our house, come over for dinner... the worship leaders would crash at our place, use our showers...

I can remember an extremely happy time when my parents' friends Rudy and Freddy stayed over.  They were vocalists.  I was walking down the hallway and Rudy was in the shower, singing.  It was cool to have people over like that.  To get to know them and for them to feel so comfortable in your space.  To have a space that was open...

When we moved during my teens years things changed for my family.  My brother was diagnosed with Juvenile (Type 1) diabetes.  My dad was diagnosed with a chronic form of Vasculitis.  My mom had a hysterectomy.  And I...  well... I was 15.

My family circled the wagons, so to speak.  My dad was taking steroids and having trouble controlling his emotions.  He was unable to go running, as he had in the past, to stay fit.  My brother had seizures sometimes.  It was difficult for all of us to help him to control his blood sugars (he was 9 years old).  People stopped coming over to our house.

We never talked about it, but it was sort of unspoken that our family needed a haven away from prying eyes.  Away from other people.  We all had our ways of secluded our lives from the outside.

Our house stopped being communal and started being reclusive.

I don't think any of us really realized this was the case at the time, but looking back - I see it and how it happened.

Now, here...  I see these people who are so generous with everything.  Their home and their food and their WiFi and water and electric.  I see how easy they live with one another.  How they open their home.

There is another family staying here as well and they are able to fit in.  Able to know when is the right time to have conversation and when is the right time to slip away.

I feel like...  I'm missing that somehow.

I sit in the bus and analyze everything.
I worry so much about getting people to like me.

And I realize, seeing how these people work so hard and have done so much that I have so far to go in my own life.

I am glad to be around them, but in awe of everything about them.

I feel tiny and lazy and so... not driven.

It's funny because I'm not sure how I got here.

I went from working all hours of the day and night between teaching and directing and parenting to focusing so much on our home and our house and our children and those relationships and now I don't feel confident picking up a hammer or knowing if it's okay for me to load and unload the dishwasher.

And I'm sitting here thinking about it and analyzing it and writing this entry and just...  growing?

I have been sent so many lessons in the past few years.

When I was working and teaching - yes, I was learning, but I didn't have time to process anything - I just had to keep going.  I barely had time to go to the bathroom.

Now I'm sitting with all of this time... and doing a lot of thinking.
A  lot of analyzing of my self and my life.

Pondering how to change.  How to learn to be radically hospitable and how to be a great guest... because it's not about leaving no trace.  It's about people and it's something that should be natural but just isn't right now.

I feel like in America Christianity has become some sort of radically patriotic idea.  The pledging of allegiance to the flag in the sanctuary is just as acceptable as the taking of communion.  The Church has adopted the "pull yourself up by your bootstaps" mentality as the country - and that isn't what Jesus intended.

Jesus intended this helping of one another.  This radical sharing.  This - those who have helping those who don't and a give and take that makes sense.  I feel like... because I was raised in the church... I don't even know what hospitality really is.

When my brother was diagnosed with diabetes, no one really understood what was happening.  There was this one woman whose son was also diabetic and she was a great help to my mom.  But where were the offers to drop me off at swim team practice?  Or the bringing of dinners - heck the EATING of dinners together?

Why do we hide in our little holes?

Why don't we ask for help?

Why don't we accept it graciously?

Last night a dad came over to pick up his kids from this house where we're staying.  On his way out he said he needed to work on his car and asked if he could use the lift in the garage.  This garage.  He asked his friend.  And his friend said, "Sure." and it was no big deal.  He has the lift.  Someone else needed the lift.  It was no big deal.

Yesterday our friends needed to pick up a car from the mechanic - so they asked me to go with them and drive the car back.  They didn't assume I would feel offended or put upon.  They just asked me because it's okay to ask for help if you need it.  It's okay to have a relationship that consists of give and take and sometimes more giving and sometimes more taking depending on your situation and that's okay.

This afternoon as Michael was finishing up his work day one of the guys stuck his head in the bus and said, "Hey, you wanna help us haul some shingles?"  And of course Michael was thrilled.

And that's community.

The most interesting part about all of this is that these people we are staying with are not Christians.  They do not "go to church".  But they have internalized ideas about community, peace, love, and kindness that the Church in America seems to have put aside.

My brain isn't sure what to do about this.

One of my best friends told me a few weeks ago that she no longer calls herself a Christian.  It just doesn't mean what it used to mean.  It doesn't mean what it's supposed to mean.

One of our friends last night said that people in the South are so suspicious of you if you aren't a Christian.  What's that about?  It sounds like a lack of hope to me.  And aren't Christians supposed to be The People of Hope?  We should be reaching out, reaching down, doing more.  Loving more.  Being an example.

And yet - I find my example here.

In friends who don't embrace this particular faith.

And it makes me fall more deeply in love with humanity, with possibility and imagination...  and less in love with the church.  And The Church?  I hope that we can soon see fit to change.  To read again the gospel messages and take them to heart.  To love with abandon.  To change the world.  Not just sit in our homes and shake our heads at the internet.  But to be the change.  To delve in with imagination and beauty and kindness and peace and spread that.  Turn away from the hatred and the seclusion and the blind patriotism and the greed and hoarding...  Get back to the salt of the earth.  Get back to the light.

 Then again...

Maybe it's not the Church.

Maybe it's just me.

1 comment:

Mari said...

You mentioned "how to be a good guest" not meaning "leave no trace." Try to think of it as meaning leaving a positive trace. When I have guests I don't want to forget they were here the instant they walk out the door (leave no trace); instead I want to hold memories of the nice things we shared while they were with me. I want to remember the meals we ate together, the things we did together, the words we exchanged in love.

How to be a "good" guest? Treat your hosts with as much kindness, peace, and love as you can muster. Which, I assume, you do to everyone you meet anyway.

In Biblical times hospitality was a duty for all Jewish people. It wasn't about having friends into your home. It was about making your home available to ANYONE who needed it. Think back to the story of Lot fleeing Sodom. Lot was by the city walls when a pair of angels entered the city so he invited them to spend the night in his home. He didn't do that because he knew they were angels or thought he knew them. They were strangers to the city and he was the first person they saw. It was his duty to open his home to them unless they had other arrangements. But he treated it as much of a privilege as a duty. While they were his guests they were under the protection of his household (which is why he offered up his own daughters to protect the guests). They would have been accorded a full measure (no "leftovers") of anything the family was eating or drinking and generally have been treated with honor and respect. Those things were treated as honoring to God, the creator of all people. I miss that attitude in modern society. I've been guilty of not being as hospitable as I could have been but it's something I've been working on for a while now.

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