Friday, September 14, 2012

On Hospitality vs. Entertaining

Two major themes that have come up in our reading and discussion of The Odyssey so far are, first, the idea of journey and homecoming, and, second, the idea of hospitality.  At first, I was treating these two ideas as separate entities, but the more I read and turn the ideas over in my mind, the more I'm seeing the intersection.  The interlocking of these ideas - the weariness of journey, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual; the relief of homecoming; and the graciousness of others along the way is where the heart of hospitality really lies.

As I have grappled with this idea over the last few weeks, I have prayed that God would grow this aspect in my life.  And so I've been thinking about how to be more hospitable. 

Should we throw a party?
Have people over for dinner?
Host a small group?
Invite out-of-town guests?

And then my mind started to panic.

Our house is too small!

Our dining room table can only fit six!

Our guest room is in shambles!

Guest room? What guest room!  Who are you kidding?

But of course God, in all His wisdom, had other plans.  Because what I was thinking was Hospitality was getting mixed up with Entertaining.  With fancy napkins and place settings and appetizers.  Not that those are bad things.  Those can be fun! 

But hospitality is not those things.

In the (awesome) video that Edie made to get us started in our reading, she reminds us of the Greek word Xenia, which is hard to translate in the English language, but is most closely related to this idea of hospitality - selflessly opening your home as a place of rest and refuge for others. 

As Americans in the twenty-first century, this is very different than entertaining.  In fact quite the opposite.  We love to entertain.  We often love to throw parties and to have people come and see how spotless our house is, how lovely our yard looks, how delicious our food is.  But then we love to send them home.  The excitement of a party is thrilling but there is often great relief when it is over.  When the last person leaves and the dishes are done and you can finally get back to yourself and your normal.  There is no rest in a party.

And so here is what God has done.  He has brought along some friends who are going through a rough patch in their journey.  There is tension and a lot of unrest.  These friends have leaned on us heavily in the last few weeks, and it has made me readjust my entire view of Hospitality.  Suddenly, hospitality has become offering our couch for a nap.  Watching children play while people talk at the kitchen table.  Bringing home an extra sandwich from our dinner out in case someone shows up hungry.  In some cases, it has meant being flexible and changing plans to make ourselves available.

And it doesn't seem to have mattered that we have a small dining room table or that we haven't lint-rolled the cat hair off of the couch this week.  As much as I would love to offer these people a hot-homecooked meal, a sandwich from the restaurant where we ate dinner has been just fine. 

Isn't it funny how God does that?  How He chooses to teach us?  Readjusting our views and growing our hearts all at the same time?  As someone who struggles with perfectionism, this is a hard lesson that I'm learning. 

How are you doing with Xenia?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Loose Ends

I am on my third cup of coffee for the day.

I didn't realize it was number three, but alas.  That is what happens in the midst of The Second Week of School Daze. 

This 5:30 am rise-and-shine is not agreeing with me just yet.  Today, for the second time since The First Day of School I awoke in a cold sweat thinking I'd overslept.  It was 3:00 am.

I have no clue what I'm doing tomorrow in class.  Thank you, unproductive weekend.

I'm already behind on the paper-grading.

But despite all of these loose ends, Life in Room 210 is really good.  Really, really good.  I'm loving this year's group of students already.  They are funny and quirky and silly and shy the way all ninth graders should be. 

I can already tell my funny boys, my know-it-alls, my hard-to-get-to-knows, my shy little girls.  I am learning the personalities of each class.  I'm thanking the Lord (literally) that my first period has a little life to them because we all know how hard it can be to stand in front of a group of 14-year-olds at 7:45 in the morning and make joke after joke getting NOTHING in return, right?  No?  This is not your life? 

And yet I already know that someone of them are deeply broken on the inside.  There are hard struggles going on behind some of those bright, innocent eyes.  And so we are already talking about our Stories and how we can start living better ones.

I'm loving this year already, even with all the loose ends.