This year I’m focusing on being more hospitable. This can appear as though I’m walking the line of self righteousness, but is quite contrarily rooted. My personal understanding of hospitality is being able to bless others, seek community, and having my foundation of reality established in abundance instead of rooted in scarcity and fear.
The American populace seems to be subconsciously shrouded in scarcity and fear, leading to division, opposition, and isolation. I know how easily it is to succumb to this. I also know how hard you have to kick and thrash to keep your head above the ever crashing waves of societal fear.
Why do I want to kick and thrash, push my way against the current, and resist the counterfeit existence of scarcity and fear?
In a world of scarcity and fear, what can you endeavor to love, besides yourself?
Your mind goes primordial, and just like a monkey, you clench your fists around what little you can grasp inside your own coconut to the point of death, when liberation ensues by simply releasing your grip. Unfortunately, accumulating and securing possessions has become more important than fostering relationships, sharing your talents, and serving those around you.
This materializes in every relationship you have from the soil to the divine.
Love, on the other hand, increases and becomes more readily available the more you give of it. Love is abundant, you can’t run out of it, and always have room for more. Summed up by Richard Rohr, “love always overflows, reproduces, and multiplies itself.”
Turning my observation inward, the struggle between fear and love becomes self evident.
I struggle to love my wife well because it isn’t an easy task. I’m not saying that my wife is difficult to love, but I am saying that fears get in the way and my ego decides loving myself is more important. My wife’s strength and confidence is unparalleled. She can achieve anything she sets her mind on, and can make the most proud person self conscious just by walking into the room. There is tons to fear as her masculine counterpart.
I fear having my desires crushed because they are oppositional to hers. I fear critiquing her parenting style or giving her advice. I fear looking weak and helpless standing up to my spouse in a male dominated society, and do my damndest to exert power over her any way that I can. The justification of these fears are based in taking the easy way out and not properly loving because of my fears. I’d rather please than love because that makes my ego feel just a bit better.
I need to take the time to appreciate these things in my wife, and learn that as a proper counterpart I can make her even better than she is, and she can do the same to me. Understanding and loving the fact that she is more intuitive, spirited, and emotionally in touch will liberate the both of us to become more wholly us.
If you are a parent then you understand that fears can inundate you. What if screaming at them hurt their feelings, spanking them could scar them emotionally, intentionally making them feel bad to teach them a lesson could ruin their self image? What if they fall, wander off, get too sick, stay up to late, or heaven forbid, play in the front yard? What if they get a B, they aren’t athletic, they don’t have many friends, they have the wrong friends? What if they get kidnapped, die early, get abused or raped, and the list goes on and on.
I totally understand what has caused the phenomenon known as a helicopter pilot, but this type of love is a facade for these underlying fears. Our fears cause us to shelter them, which ultimately isolates them, creates new sets of fears, and makes them look to us as parents as their only form of safety. They essentially become our possessions that we don’t allow anyone to enjoy.
I truly desire to host the “least of these” to learn their stories, to give them a meal, and to see if I might be able to use my white privilege to assist them in their needs. The more I contemplate the logistics of it, the more my fears set in. Just like a monkey, my fist squeezes tighter around my meager belongings inside my coconut world and I avoid helping.
What if they end up needing more help than I expected and it takes time away from my family? What if they remember where I live and come back? What if…insert your own fear here. My ego makes me believe they aren’t worth my time or sacrifice.
The Earth was the first gift given to humans, and now all we do is manufacture fears so that we can continue to sequester profits out of it. A major one is fearing the inability of supplying food for the growing world population. Because of this fear we have sacrificed biodiversity in order to support a handful of mass produced modified crops that deplete the life from the soil, simultaneously pumping carbon into the atmosphere and dollars into a select fews pockets. We’ve slashed and burned unmeasurable amounts of forests, destroying natural foods, animal habitats, medical cures, and many other things in order to grow these crops. We’ve done all of this to ensure we have enough “food” to feed the world while still wasting one third of all food harvested, and barely making a dent in the population of the starving. We’ve killed off thriving bee populations and instead of fixing the problem we attempt to modify foods to not require pollinators.
Most evangelicals were brought up learning to fear God, and heard many sermons about Hell, fire, and brimstone. But can we love something that we fear? To fear God is actually rooted more in seeking wisdom than actually being afraid of God. And when it comes to loving God, do we actually love God, or are we putting on a show in order to exert what little power we have in the hopes of manipulating God to get what we want?
Is our being terrified of a God that is pure love destroying our concept of what love really is? Is our desire to impress God, and be right by God so absolute that we build a chasm between ourselves and others that attempt to love God in a different way? Has our attempts at manipulating God created a hatred of “the other,” the exact ones God called us to love?
What I’m trying to do.
In discussing love, Ilia Delio states, “For we cannot say we love the God we cannot see if we do not love the neighbor we see; to love the neighbor is to love God and to love God is to love self and to love self is to love neighbor so that God, self, and neighbor are a trinity of love. This new law of love means living in a different way, from a new center of love where God, self and neighbor are deeply entwined.”
So for me?
I’m planning to forget fearing the failure of looking like a masculine man to impress some passerby in our American culture. I prefer to love my spouse more deeply, improving myself in the process. I’m attempting to put her before myself in all that I do. Being comfortable with and truly belonging to each other brings a whole new vitality to life. I’m craving that vitality.
I want to teach my kids to enjoy what I love, while learning to discover and love their own loves in the process. I’m stripping the gears on the rotor shaft of my parental helicopter. I want to show them how to truly love others and themselves. I want them to know they have nothing to fear, including God, or “the other.”
Investing time with “the other” is becoming a priority. Sharing a meal with them, learning their story, seeing how we can help them, and doing so with my kids and family.
I’m learning more about permaculture, regenerative agriculture, and finding ways to use gardening and small farms to develop community, and reverse global warming by putting some carbon back in the ground. Did you know that for every pound of vegetables that you grow in your garden, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 pounds compared to buying them in a grocery store? I’m planning to double the size of my garden, and trying to increase output by 4x this year. I want to teach the kids about gardening, and about giving. We are expanding so that we can give more to those who need it.
I’ve discovered that by not just loving myself, I’m loving God. Tielhard de Chardin said that love is the physical structure of the universe. That makes a lot of sense considering that creator of the universe is love. I’m planning on spending much more time this year just sitting in the presence of that Love in order to share more of it with those around me. To float in in the presence of love seems much more enjoyable that kicking and thrashing trying to keep my head above the chaos of fear and scarcity.
What if we started to view our resources like love, with a perspective of never ending abundance? The more we give of them the more we will have to give of them. I truly believe that the more of your time you give away, the more time you will find you have. The more you give of your produce, the better the harvest will be. Focusing on your guests and family while hosting will allow a more enjoyable experience for everyone than if you are constantly worried about how much you spent on the meal, or the amount of time you have for the meal.
I decided to implement some of this and give it a try with my daughter. I took her to downtown Denver to get to know some people on the street. As we walked past the first person on the street with a sign asking for help, my daughter buried her face in my shoulder, started whimpering and whining, and said, “Dad, no. I’m scared, I’m shy, I don’t want to.” I made her look at me and told her that was unacceptable. She needed to realize that they were people also, and just having a little bit of a harder go at life than we have had recently. I told her she could pick the person we would speak with, so we kept walking. We walked several blocks, and didn’t come across anymore people asking for anything. Kind of weird for Denver, so I talked her into going back to the only person we saw.
I walked up to him, and asked if we could buy him lunch, that we wanted to do something special for him and get to know him. I had my daughter bashfully introduce herself. He said that someone had already given him lunch, but that what he really needed was help buying a bus ticket to Omaha to get reacquainted with his family. I didn’t know where to buy bus tickets as its something I’ve never done. I’m fortunate enough to get free air travel anywhere in the world. As we walked we got to know this individual a little bit more.
He had made some poor choices, and said he met God in his dreams telling him to turn his life around. He was moving in with his grandfather after his mother had died, and was going to find work as a mason. He was hoping to be able to make a difference in some peoples lives, and said that he was so glad there is still some small glimmers of hope left in a couple people. I asked Skye if she liked spending time with her grandpas, and after saying yes, I asked if we should help him get to see his grandpa. Of course daddy was her response.
We bought him his ticket to Omaha. He pulled out all the cash that he had and offered it to me to help pay for his ticket. What good is a ticket if you don’t have any other cash to help out on the trip? I couldn’t take money from a homeless man. We walked with him back to the mall where we met. We discussed the church, and community, and how it works together. We answered his questions about why everyone had dirt smudged on their foreheads. We explained how Jesus loves all of us and uses our mistakes to continue His redemptive story.
Once we parted from him, Skye gave him a big hug, and asked if we could find more people on the street to help. This won’t be a one time deal. Our daddy daughter dates are going to have more of this type of experience sprinkled in. Once she overcame her fear, she learned how to love and help others. We took the above selfie with him, and she has asked to show him to everyone.
Was his story true? Who knows. Who cares. He obviously needed to get to Omaha for something. Was it worth buying a bus ticket to teach my daughter a new perspective on love? You betcha. Was it worth it to get her, and myself, to always remember that people on the street are human too? That they have names, stories, families, regrets, hopes? I can’t put a financial price on that. I still remember when my parents took me to feed homeless people on the mall in DC. I hope that my daughter remembers this the rest of her life as well.
What we consume is what we exhibit. Here’s to being more hospitable and loving, and seeing how it not only changes those around you, but how it changes you.