Yesterday, I kicked off the series on hospitality with the question: Does Your Life Say Welcome? And I referenced Karen Ehman’s helpful definition of hospitality as being both in-home and out-home. For that post, click here.
Today, I want to discuss the concept of overstaying the welcome. How do we relate to the friend, neighbor or guest who needs relationship beyond the bounds of time we have allotted for them? What does it look like to love after the stop-watch has beeped?
Jesus’ words to Martha in Luke 10, are an excellent starting point. In the story of Mary and Martha, we see the perfect illustration of provision in friendship, and joyful response. Having invited Jesus over for a meal at their home, Martha was in a frenzy, seeking to make the ambience of Jesus’ visit, perfect. She was highly stressed and anxious. She was resentful, because while she was busily tending to the felt needs of her friend Jesus, Mary was sitting down! Mary was plunked down at the feet of Jesus, listening to him, resting with him and enjoying him. “Martha, Martha”, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her”.
Mary knew how to open her home and to relax in the company of her guest. She knew how to provide a slowed-down welcome, and to absorb time with a loved one. I am confident that Jesus felt both rested in the company of Mary, and honored that she would ease her life-pace for him. Remember that Jesus saw the agony of the cross always before him. Mary’s hospitality was likely a great source of renewal and encouragement for him.
As North Americans, we are fiercely autonomous, aren’t we? Deeply desirous of privacy. Jealous of our boundaries. But as Christians, the Gospel should make us different. We should resemble those who prize people above things, who value time with others more than we value task-accomplishment. We should be more like Mary.
Last week, my sister and I were discussing hospitality, and she referred me to a song by Sara Groves. In this song, entitled “Every Minute”, Groves references a friend who loved and tended to her by allowing her to overstay the welcome in her home. Her words are both touching and poignant, as they relay a deep truth about the enabling power of committed friendship.
Groves references the void filled by her friend, as she stays long and stays over-time. But she weaves together an account that can be easily identified in my life, or yours. So great is her love and need for her friend, that I’ll take every minute that you give me.
Mary gave Jesus her minutes.
When our friends and neighbors and guests linger, it can become tempting to wish our stop-watches to beep so we can move down our lists to the next thing to do. We always have a next thing to do, don’t we? But hospitality is loving beyond our boundaries- of space and of time. When we linger just a few moments longer than we had planned to, we communicate with more than mere words
a life that says welcome.
Is there one person this week that you can slow down for?
Can you answer their phone-call, or meet up in person, or invite them over for coffee and allow them to overstay their welcome?
If you would like to listen to Sara Grove’s beautiful song, Every Minute, here is a link.