Elisabeth Elliot—one of my favorite authors and an incredibly inspiring Christian—speaks fondly of childhood memories of the company her parents entertained in her book The Shaping of a Christian Family. Visiting missionaries, church members, or friends were regularly welcomed in their home and at their table. Elliot goes on to write of the impression that left on her about being hospitable.
Romans 12 identifies the marks of a true Christian. Hospitality, that old-fashioned virtue, is inexcusably among them. Elliot’s childhood and what is commanded in Scripture formed her view of hospitality. She had an open home just as her parents did.
What is hospitality, though? Is it always having people over and feeding them?
These days seem unprecedented with lock downs, toilet paper shortages, and social distancing. It seems ominous, even slightly apocalyptic. But it is nothing the world hasn’t ever seen before. There have been plagues and pestilences before. The news of the novel coronavirus, how fast it is spreading, and how many people are dying each day sounds so frightening when the media reports it.
How does anyone find comfort and peace during this time? Maybe the vice grip on your chest loosens when you know you have enough supplies stocked up for the next month (or two). Maybe the anxiety eases when you completely cut yourself off from the world to keep the virus out of your life and home. Maybe some peace sneaks in when you realize that COVID-19 acts like any other virus. It acts like the virus of the H1N1 Pandemic of 2009. Only during that pandemic millions of people died. Maybe you rest easier knowing that the fatality rate of COVID-19 is nowhere near that yet.
“Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.” – Jonathan Edwards, Resolution 1
Blues and violets were dancing together across the sky, accompanied by the setting sun. The trees on the hills strained to touch their tips to the periwinkle above. The highway dipped like a roller coaster and rippled for several more miles. It was a late-April evening in northern Florida, and it had been a day.
You know how some days can make your heart thump-thump-thump? My heart had been thump-thump-thumpy all day. Lessons hadn’t gone as planned and students were excessively edgy. Too many unexpected events, too many interruptions, too many minor hiccups were the perfect cocktail for a thump-thump-thumpy heart.
The weeks leading up to spring break are harried for teachers. Third-quarter grades are due, parent conferences need to happen, regular teaching must go on, and everyone is desperate for the break’s arrival.
When the days seem short and the weeks long, it is easy to feel that nothing will be done on time and that everything is out of control. Well, everything is out of my control, but I know the one who is in control. So as I counted down the weeks to the break, I turned my thoughts to consider God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty (or his supreme power and rule) is not limited to the ability to make something happen or keep something from happening. While that is certainly part of it, it is only a part of it. We are known and kept by God Most High more intimately than that.
It was a cold and rainy day—the kind where rain boots are the only sufficient footwear and a Starbucks cup is an indispensable accessory. So with my rain boots on my feet and a latte in my hand, I headed to my car. It was one of the rare days I decided to listen to the radio while driving. My iPod is usually plugged in but this day was different. It was Christmas break, freezing cold in Florida, and raining in January. It was a classic winter day; so far from the norm that it was fitting to listen to the radio for a change.
While I was backing out of my spot, I paused and strained my ear toward the absurd clip of a message littered with vocalized pauses that I was hearing on Christian radio.
James MacDonald—pastor, author, and radio speaker—was in the middle of telling his audience to look at God’s resume to prove his character. He suggested taking a minute to “interview God” to see how he was worthy of the task set before him.
My ears started to bleed. I punched the radio button to stop it and I reversed and sped away, as though driving away could put physical distance between myself and the ridiculous scrap I just heard.
As you read the Bible, you see that the lives of the saints who have gone before were shaped or marked by some sort of affliction and suffering. Job is possibly the most prominent name associated with suffering, but he is certainly not the only one who suffered. Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul, Peter and plenty others are on that list.
King David, who is equally as well known, though for different reasons, also lived a life full of challenges and affliction. Some came from being a soldier; some came from being a king; some came just from being human. The psalms that David penned are both a cry for help and comfort and a record of God’s faithfulness and love as he experienced them. These two themes are tightly woven into Psalm 119, making it clear where David sought his comfort and strength. In Psalm 119:50, 51, David says, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.”
The campaign to be your best self is gaining momentum. It’s established by psychology and human development studies, then made fashionable by culture. Like any form of self-help, becoming the best version of yourself demands that you call to action the long-dormant, inner and secret motivation you have to conquer addictions, break bad habits, get out of debt, or retire at the ripe age of 38.
A how-to article by Scott Barry Kaufman from the HuffPost blog describes your best self as someone who lives “a life rich in health, growth, and happiness.” Melissa Camara Wilkins writes that to be your best self you draw from your strengths, do things that make you happy, and act in ways that feel right.