Guests and Grace
By Rachel Baker –
“Our life at the table, no matter how mundane, is sacramental—a means through which we encounter the mystery of God.” —Tim Chester, A Meal with Jesus
When I was in college I lived in a tiny back-house studio in Anaheim. The room was a square which I quartered out into a kitchen, living room, office and sleeping quarters. In my tiny living area, I had a twin-sized sleigh bed which took up the majority of the space. When girlfriends and sisters came to visit I adjusted the space for my guests. I laid out special towels reserved for them and prepared special meals.
“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.” 1 Peter 4:9 (NASB)
I was raised on a culture of preparing for guests. My family is incredibly hospitable and if you were to stay in one of their homes you’d be cared for with a comfortable space, meals and libations. You will be prepared and planned for.
This summer was incredibly busy, filled with travel and plenty of visitors. We now reside in Utah and have a special space set aside with the sole purpose of hosting guests. We’ve had all sorts of guests in our home: family, a friend with her small baby whose husband was on deployment, old neighbors with their children, sisters, long lost friends who used our home as a stopping point and so on. In one instance I had less than five hours between guests, I ran around flipping sheets and cleaning the bathroom. As each guest arrived I planned meals and tried to get some quality time in with them, even though day-today life raged on.
We are all so different, our guests and us. We have different view-points on life, faith, politics, you name it, but we met every day at our sticky teal table to share a meal or cup of coffee. This table became a space of grace. Here, we allow for deep conversation, though rarely seen eye-to-eye. We agree and disagree, discuss and theorize. We allow space for each other and our differences.
“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:6-9 (ESV)
Coming together with the commonality of love allows for deeper, truer conversations. Creating a baseline in love also creates a space for truth and transparency. It too builds a space for the gospel message to be shared, perhaps not in word, but in action.
My thought on hospitality is this: Create a space inviting to those around you, to friends and neighbors who stop in for a visit. Live with a simplicity and openness of schedule that allows the occasional drop in or last-minute guest. These moments of hospitality leave a lasting impact on our guests, whether they share the faith or not. By using your hands to prepare for them, you are in fact becoming the hands of Christ. This impact is eternal; it plants seeds that you may never have the benefit of reaping. It, as well, creates the opportunity to harvest that which you did not plant.
All the guests are gone now, we have a short season of respite, and the house feels strangely quiet. The sink sits full of dishes and the table filled with little projects. By my standards the house is a mess. In these moments I’m tempted to lock the doors and bar the outside world, lest they catch my mess, but even here, in the middle of the mess Christ is calling us, me, to open those doors, prepare the space, and meet at the table of grace.
For further encouragement from Rachel, follow her at: @bewellrachel, rachelcheriebaker.com