The Hospitality of Rest
“Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” – Genesis 18:4
This passage comes from the familiar story in which Abraham and Sarah are visited by a group of strangers who come as messengers to tell the news that they will have a son in their old age. Sarah laughed, remember? Most of the time we skipped over the moment that Abraham welcomes the visitors because we want to hear what news they have brought. What happens in this verse, and the few that immediately follow it, is important.
Hospitality toward strangers was expected in this time. As people had to travel long distances, often on foot, they came to rely on the generous hospitality of local residents along their journey. Travelers arrived to a home weary from their long hours of walking or riding. They were in need of water, food, and rest. They stayed to share a meal and conversation, and then departed once again when they were recharged and refreshed. If you read stories from the Old Testament, you may notice that those who welcome visitors with kindness are treated with kindness. Those who refuse or abuse visitors, usually entire cities, often experience some form of punishment.
Abraham welcomes these strangers into his home. He gives them water and, as they rest from their travels, he and Sarah prepare them a meal from the finest of their food supply. They showed loving kindness through their hospitality and it all started with Abraham’s invitation of welcome to their guests.
Caring for our neighbors comes in these ordinary moments of welcome. “Come in, have some water, get cleaned up, sit down, and rest.” When I moved to Ohio I found an apartment with two bedrooms and two bathrooms so that when friends and family come to stay, I can offer them a warm bed and a private place to recharge from their travels. When I know someone is coming, I stock the fridge with some of their favorite foods and drinks (a visit from Mom or my friend Sarah means Diet Coke; for my friend Gina or my sister Megan, I fill a drawer full of specialty cheeses). I scrub the house and stock the guest bathroom with fresh towels and extra toiletries. I prepare my home to welcome visitors so that they will feel loved and comfortable. They can relax and we enjoy our time together.
This care must extend also to ourselves. I once heard someone say that you should treat yourself as if you were a guest in your own home. What does that look like in our homes? In my home, it means making my bed before I leave so that I can return home to a clean bedroom. It sometimes means cooking a balanced meal instead of just eating popcorn for dinner. It can mean deep-cleaning the spaces I use most often so that I’m not constantly distracted by dust or clutter. On sunny days, I treat myself like a beloved guest by opening the patio blinds to let sunshine into my home office. Every day, it means allowing myself time to rest and recharge my mind and body.
The hospitality for caring is what is expected of us as children of God. We are meant to care for each other like family because that is what we are. We must also remember that we are children of God and that we must treat ourselves as such. How can you be more kind and welcoming to yourself this week? In what ways to treat yourself like a welcome guest? Where do you find rest for your journey? As I am on vacation this week, I invite you to think about the ways you can find what you need for a healthy body and mind. I pray all these things for you. Amen.