As a family, we are committed to practicing hospitality. This does not look like a Pinterest-inspired meal with neatly-folded napkins and elaborate, earthy centerpieces. It looks like a commitment to make space for the other and to seek to see the stranger and the alien in our midst. It takes effort and intentionality. It often causes stress and stretches us. But it is worth it because God is worthy.
As those who have been recipients of the hospitable God who makes space for us to such a degree that he actually stepped into space to save us, we reflect his image even in our shoddy attempts at showing hospitality to others. God’s word commands it, and his love compels it.
I thought I had been stretched appropriately in this arena; however, lately, I have been learning a new form of hospitality: making space and room for the resident aliens in my own home (our teenagers).
Teenagers are strangers, even to themselves. Outside of their initial growth as babies, at no other time are they changing, growing, and stretching so much (physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally). It helps me to remember this God-ordained reality when the boys with whom I have shared my heart and my home for fourteen and fifteen years suddenly seem like an alien species. Their voices are different, the synapses in their brain are being re-circuited, and hormones are rising like sudden tsunamis that neither of us expect.
Their interests are changing (sometimes daily), and that often leaves me feeling like I’m lost without a map in uncharted territory. As soon as I get my mind around being a skater-mom and start to understand skateboard brands, they have moved on to surfing or videography. I knew that the teenaged-years would be a transition for them, but I don’t think I knew it would be such a transition for me as well.
I find myself continually grateful that Jesus lived through this phase himself, thereby acknowledging and sanctifying these years. I find myself in places of deeper dependence upon prayer than I have since those early newborn days. I am having to keep shorter accounts. I am daily confessing my idols of control and facing my own insufficiency. In fact, the pages of my Bible are growing thin in a few places.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:8-9).
Peter challenged the early church to remain fervent or earnest in their love for one another, knowing that they would need God’s abundant love to cover a multitude of sins, mistakes, and missteps in their attempt to do so. The Greek word, ektenés, translated earnest or fervent, literally means “stretched out fully” and is the root word for the English terms “tense” and “tension.”
I am so thankful that Peter chose to use this word, as it aptly describes the tension and the strain involved in loving one another earnestly and showing hospitality to one another, even to the ones who live in our homes. These verses leave me clinging to another verse:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).
A Delicate Dance
Teenagers need both space and presence. Loving my teenaged boys looks like a delicate dance with lots of stepping on toes, apologies, and tearful conversations on both sides. But it is an incredible dance that leads me to both dependence and delight.
I struggle to get the spacing right
As we learn a new kind of dance.
I loved our past choreography-
Its simple steps, your typical glance.
There’s a depth now to your eyes,
Matching the mystery in your soul.
We still move in a partnership,
But I’m a bit unsure of my role.
You keep growing and changing,
Finding your own tempo and pace.
Balancing proximity and distance
Requires great measures of grace.
I’m learning to let you lead, son.
You are learning you know how,
We’re both preparing for a future
When another will kiss your brow.
The dance isn’t always graceful;
We’ll step on an occasional toe.
But know it’s my distinct delight
To dance with you as you grow.
These resident aliens are keeping me on my toes and on my knees. What a privilege it is that God would entrust them to me.