I visited a husband and wife this afternoon. They had asked if I would come to their home and talk with them about their funerals. They are both in their mid-eighties and were waiting at the door when I arrived. They had the coffee on and a fresh chocolate cake on the counter waiting for their pastor. So, we sat at the table with cups of coffee and plates of cake and talked about their lives. And we talked about death.
The hospitality was not only in the food, but in their openness to share the blessings and struggles of 63 years of married life. I accepted their hospitality completely.
I'll admit it was a challenge.
I have been counting my daily intake of calories since February. I am using an app called Lose It. This discipline is working for me. I set the app for how much weight I want to lose and how many pounds per week I would like to lose and the app tells me how many calories I get per day. I record the food I eat and the app totals the calories.
I have been losing the weight despite the challenges of pot luck meals, restaurant meetings and travel to conferences. I am faithfully keeping within my daily calorie count and rediscovering the blessing of fresh fruits and vegetables, with just a little bit of meat and dairy. Today, I was confronted by cake.
I could have left the lovely piece of chocolate cake on the plate and not felt any discomfort or craving (I am not a big chocolate fan). However, I knew that the cake and coffee had been prepared for their guest and so I enjoyed it with them.
After I left, I took my weight loss app out and added my piece of chocolate cake to the calorie count. I have 21 calories left for dinner, and I do not regret my choice to accept their hospitality.
Often we think of the Christian life as a call to be hospitable, to have an open door, a ready invitation, a compassionate heart. But Christian hospitality moves in both directions. We are called to both give and receive.
Years ago I would fight against compliments, offers of help, and words of encouragement. I wanted to be the one who offered. I've tried to set that behavior aside, because if I insist on staying in the position of helper, I am protecting my position of power.
True hospitality, authentic and deep giving, come when we are willing to be vulnerable, to be the helper and the one in need.
Our relationship with Jesus Christ depends on reciprocal hospitality. We hear a lot about welcoming Jesus into our hearts, as if Jesus is out in the cold and we choose whether he comes in or not. That is a step of a faith, but true connection comes when we enter the heart of Jesus in humility, stillness and need.
I cannot say that I am in full reciprocal hospitality with Christ, but I do know that practicing both gracious giving and receiving in my life prepare me everyday to be in deeper relationship with God.
I will take the cake when it comes my way and I will humbly thank my host.