A couple of years ago I had a strange experience. I hadn’t seen my neighbors outside for a while. I kept thinking I should call and check on them, because their girls and the dad typically spend a lot of time on the front lawn.
Somewhere around there we lost a baby and I lost track. Then I had a strange dream where the dad across the street had died and we didn’t even know it. I awoke in the middle of the night, shaken and determined to call and see how they were doing the next morning.
But in the morning it seemed silly. What would I say? “I know we haven’t talked in several weeks, but I haven’t seen y’all outside and I had this dream last night… is everyone alive over there?”
So I didn’t call. I don’t really think of God speaking through dreams these days.
Fast forward several more weeks. After I’d recovered from the physical effects of a miscarriage gone horribly wrong, I called to check in and to see if they could come to dinner. The mom was delighted and after a few checks to the calendar, we had a date. I was so relieved to have finally responded to what I had long since determined was the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
The night of our dinner arrived and my neighbor came with two of her daughters. Her husband and the third daughter stayed home. In the weeks since we’d last caught up, he had suffered a heart attack, died in the ambulance on the way to the local hospital, was brought back to life by the EMT, and died again during the 45 minute drive to the heart hospital. In the end, they managed to save his life. But he was more easily tired these days, and the third daughter stayed home to be with him.
But their story gets worse. Just a couple of weeks after his miraculous recovery, my neighbor’s mom died. Then she found out she had breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy. She was still in recovery from her surgery when they came to our house for pizza.
I’m sure our dinner that night offered a little encouragement to this sweet family. She said so. But how much more encouragement and help could I have provided if I’d responded promptly to the Holy Spirit in the first place?
I could’ve helped with her kids, picked up groceries at the store, taken them dinner… even just dropped a note off to let them know I was praying for them. I could have prayed for them! Instead, I heard the whole awful story after the fact when all I could offer were words of empathy and regret. I am still thankful we could celebrate God’s faithfulness together, I just would’ve liked to have been a part of his faithfulness in their lives.
It would be easy for me to say I had my own set of troubles. It took months, literally, before my body recovered from the massive hemorrhage I’d experienced. But when I am really honest with myself, I see God was calling me to reach out even in the midst of my own weakness and grief.
It wouldn’t have taken much to be present in the darkness with them. I was already in the neighborhood – and I don’t mean our physical one. 🙂
I am learning, through trial and error, that hospitality is not always convenient. It does require us to look beyond ourselves, to go to where people are, to seek them out, and to offer hope.
God extends this type of hospitality. In the garden, he looked for Adam and Eve when they were hidden. They weren’t where they usually were, he noticed, and he called out to them. When he found them, he could see what they needed, and he provided it.
Christ sought us, too. He left the comforts of heaven to suffer and to find us, to find me. And God calls me to join him in reaching out to others. What an honor I often forfeit when I don’t listen to his voice.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…
— 1 Peter 4:8-10