Hospitality: the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. (Google search definition) Romans 12:13 tells us to pursue hospitality, practice hospitality, be given to it. J.B. Phillips and the Webster’s dictionary definition hedge it in terms of food and lodging in a home or hotel, etc… I have been thinking about daily life hospitality and what does it look like in this season I am in.
This past week I was reading the book of Ruth in the Bible through a few times as per assigned by my husband for a study our Wednesday night Bible Study is doing, How to Read your Bible for All Its Worth. This week was an attempt to read through a historical book, obviously looking for God and themes and what the point of the book is: redemption and God’s heart. At Christmas as I read through the accounts in Matthew and Luke, I kept entering in trying to really connect with the story, listening, looking, smelling, and touching the scene. This practice helped me to make some connections I had not in the past (see posts about Wonder from December). Since the book of Ruth is a historical narrative, I decided to practice sitting with it in the same way I had over Christmas.
The person who became so vivid each time I read through the text was Boaz. There was much about Ruth and God too, but Boaz jumped out at me. The word that resonated in my heart was hospitable. His demeanor was inviting and generous. His interaction with his workers seems to be a greeting of invitation. The NIV says, he “greeted the harvesters, ‘The Lord be with you!’” He immediately noticed Ruth in his fields. This is a man who just got there, as the overseer of much, and he takes time to not just get down to business with his workers which he had every right to do, but also notices a woman that was not a worker. He knew his people. He paid attention. His first encounter with Ruth is one of settling any fears she may have had, and offering protection and generosity. He welcomes her and hosts her even in a field at his work. He offers her blessings and welcomes her to his table. As the story continues his generous, hospitable heart continues to show through.
During this time of reading through Ruth, I was subbing. It was after the holidays and I had a large quantity of candy. I saved the dark chocolate of course and decided to take the milk chocolate and other miscellaneous goodies to school to share (because if I did not I would eat it all in a short disgusting amount of time). When the teens came in and settled in I would offer them a piece or two whatever… help yourself, eat it all so I don’t kind of attitude. There was no altruistic motivation at that point, just getting it out of my house, but something happened that connected to what God was showing me with Boaz, hospitality and how significant it was. The kids really appreciated the food (I know teens and food, who knew) but it was a deeper appreciation because of the setting. Anytime kids or adults are in my home I offer food and drink, but we were in school and I was their sub. It was unexpected and unsolicited. I usually carry treats for brainteaser winners or other games we play, but this was just because. There was a deeper appreciation and connection made.
I started thinking further about this. What does it look like for me as I go into the schools to be hospitable there? I was thinking about how Boaz greeted his workers and Ruth. There was an intentional kindness. The school I sub in most is small, so I have been trying to get better at remembering names, and asking questions from stuff I over hear or they share. So many of these kids do not experience hospitality in their own homes, let alone school. I listen to many stories of hurt and brokenness. I am “just” the sub but what can I do to be intentional, to have the heart of Boaz in the situation? How can I invite kids to feel safe and comfortable? I am also realizing how I need to be more intentional with the adults in the environment too, and how they need hospitality just as much as the kids. I over hear many conversations (it amazes me how invisible a sub is) and the discussions of hurt and brokenness are the same in their world too. As I continued to think about Boaz’s heart, I was thinking how whether I am at the bank or store, school or church, and especially in my home I need to be intentional with it. It is easy to let it slip, which is probably why we are told to practice hospitality. God knew for many of us it would not come naturally, and others of us would start moving so quickly that we would forget. I am encouraged and challenged by Boaz who was busy and had much responsibility but still took time in word and deed to practice hospitality as he went about his days.