I am not a natural host, as the domestic arts are usually not my strong suit. It takes work for me to meal plan and to clean our home beyond our usual surface cleaning. I usually work myself up into a bit of a tizzy before guests come, as my husband and children will attest. However, all the preparation and planning are always worth it once the guests arrive.
Hosting guests in your home has inherent duties and delights. The invitation of the other interrupts regular routines and rhythms which is simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating. Having new sets of eyes in our homes and cities, in addition to helping us see the dust and dings in our houses, gives us permission to see the ordinary in new light. We become tourists in our own cities, enjoying its unique beauty and noticing its particular brokenness anew.
The ordinary is infused with perspective and the overly-crowded table encourages fresh conversations. However, the hosts or hostesses must give focused attention to their guests, interrupt their normal routines, and limit their own activity to best serve their guests.
Perhaps because we host quite often, or perhaps because it was written so poetically, a short eight lines from Emily Dickinson offered fresh perspective for my soul this morning.
“The Soul that has a Guest,
Doth seldom go abroad,
Diviner Crowd at home
Obliterate the need,
And courtesy forbid
A host’s departure, when
Upon Himself be visiting
The Emperor of Men!”
Every believer is a constant host to the Lord of hosts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Such a reality should shock and stir us, keeping us preoccupied with desire to make our guest most comfortable and at home within us. It should rearrange our desires and reprioritize our time just as much as and even more than having a human guest within our physical walls. It should give us permission to live differently than those around us who are not hosting such a divine dignitary. Such constant divine presence should give us pause when we are tempted to sin as much and even more than having extra sets of eyes around us keeps us on our best behavior.
Zacchaeus was shocked enough to nearly fall out his tree when the Messiah invited himself into his home (Luke 19:1-6). After all, as a tax collector, he was hated by his own people whom he willingly stole from in the light of day and with Rome’s blessing. People avoided him like the plague, crossing streets to avoid him. Yet, the treasured rabbi chose to stay in his home, allowing him who was a parasite the dignity of being a host.
We ought be far more shocked than Zacchaeus by the fact that the Holy Spirit has chosen to make his abode within our crowded, cantankerous hearts. The disciples understandably did not understand what Jesus was hinting at in his final discourses with them before the Cross.
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).
It had not fully clicked yet that Jesus was God come to pitch his tent among humanity (skenoo, the Greek word used in John 1:14, literally means “to pitch one’s tent among”). If they struggled to understand this reality, how were they to understand that the Helper, the One whom Jesus would send after his return to the Father, would literally live within them?
None of it made sense until the Spirit descended upon them and took lodging within them at Pentecost. Even then, it probably made no sense. Why would the very Trinity choose to dwell inside humans? How could this be? What an honor and a privilege that must have been to them initially, as it was in the early days of conversion to all who believe.
Sometimes, nay, often, I forget that my soul has a guest — not just any guest, but the dignitary of all dignitaries, the Spirit of the King of Kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).
I pray that I would begin to treat this God-guest with exceedingly more care and concern than I approach human company. I pray that I would linger long in His company and gladly prioritize my day around His priorities until the day that we are physically at home and face-to-face with Christ, the forever host.