Freedom-from-want1In yet another one my “live your best life” moments, I started a new scripture study on hospitality last week. As a Mississippian, I was raised to smile broadly at people I find tiresome and to entertain with the latest Jr. League Cookbook. You know, life skills. So, I thought it would be good to study the Good Book in the hopes of making my hospitality mean something. As so often happens, God had other plans.

I casually mentioned this hospitality scripture study to one of my closest friends, “You should totally do it,” I told her. Only retrospectively am I able to admit that I wanted her to do it so that the next time she came for dinner she would think something along the lines of, “Wow these gruyere canapés are great! And so HOLY.” But, dear reader, before you start throwing shade my way, perhaps you have your own self delusions. I have found in my personal spiritual life that themed Bible studies (be a better wife, be a better mother, be a better hostess) are gateways for allegedly fixing all of my problems . But, as per usual, I went skipping into FixMeVille. I was all about my new life changing Bible Study. I was going to be holiest and most hospitable hostess this side of Mississippi. And I was even dolling out my one day’s worth (that’s right, 24 hours to expertdom) of religious wisdom onto my poor friends.

And then, the unthinkable happened. I locked myself out of the house with a 6 month old baby in arms. And the hidden key was no where to be found. And my husband was hours away, on a lake, trying to catch fish. So I called my dear friend. The one who I had informed of my Best Life Hospitality Bible Study. She immediately dropped her actual life and came to my rescue. We drove to the school and picked up my hangry toddler. She bought me baby formula. We went back to her house and waited for my husband. It took him 7 hours to get home.

thanksgivingWhen we got to her house she handed me a beer and fed my family crackers and cheese. In these days of “casual entertaining,” I can easily fall into the trap of thinking that serving “rustic recipes” or using butcher paper/tea candles as my table decor is somehow less contrived (and therefore more sanctified) than using our fine china. It is not. It invokes just as much fear of judgment and anxiety. Real hospitality is opening your home as it is and offering whatever happens to be in the fridge. It is brave and vulnerable. And it is precisely what my friend offered us.

As the evening went on, she ordered pizza. She bathed my toddler. At some point in the evening she handed me her phone to check a text message from my husband (because, of course, mine was locked in our house). And there it was, staring at me from the screen of an Android, the Bible study on hospitality I had recommended to her just the day before. Luckily, it was just me and the 6 month old in the room. Because I started openly weeping. My friend had taken us in, fed us, and (at least my toddler) bathed us. I was overcome with a kind of indescribable gratefulness.

God didn’t want me to read a hospitality Bible study because he has some grand plans for me to become our Lord and Savior meets Martha Stewart. I believe God intended for me to read the study because he wanted me to remember what it feels like to receive hospitality. Real hospitality. The kind where you sit on the floor chatting while your baby rolls around on a blanket.

Spirituality, especially women’s spirituality, can be laden with self-improvement. There are an endless amount of “mores” in the Christian woman blogosphere. We should love more, give more, be more hospitable. But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if our rightful inheritance is to be on the receiving end?

It is a risky assertion. There is an anxiety that if we saw ourselves as merely receivers, then we would not help the marginalized. The thought goes that if we consider ourselves as needy for God, we might forget the true widows and orphans in our midst. The more I realize I need Jesus, the less I buy into that concern. As we hear hauntingly in 1 John: We love him because he first loved us. It is the reception of that love that calls us to utter gratitude. And that kind of gratitude does not a passive person make.

Modern-Family-ThanksgivingWhen Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” he means everyone. All of us. As it turns out, there isn’t even another line to stand in. We are all marked The Least of These in one way or another. Hit it, Flannery:

And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognized at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything, and the given wit to use it right. She leaned forward to observe them closer. They were marching behind the others with great dignity, accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior. They, alone were on key. Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away. She lowered hands and gripped the rail of the hog pen, her eyes small but fixed unblinkingly on what lay ahead. In a moment the vision faded but she remained where she was. –Flannery O’Connor “Revelation”