For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
My family and I recently returned from a 15-day road trip, circling five states. We slept at 5 houses and 3 hotels during our jaunt, and I couldn’t help taking note of the displays of hospitality that continuously popped up, like prairie dogs on the range.
Along our adventure we experienced Yellowstone National Park for the first time. We learned that as the first national park for our country, Yellowstone was dedicated “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” in 1872. It’s clear that the National Park Services strives to balance the needs of Mother Nature with the purpose of God’s people. It’s a wild and delicate balance. Keep that in mind … for within the wild ways of Yellowstone, this park for the people, God revealed three lessons about His hospitality … which, in turn, clues me in to how I can improve the hospitality I offer:
- Prep work provides the way. We may have planned our road trip for a few months, but plans for Yellowstone began millions of years ago. As volcanoes erupted (one was 6,000 times larger than Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980!), preparations of grand proportions played out. The land shifted, waters rushed and hushed healing eventually came – along with the life that grew. Likewise, God’s hospitable preparations for our individual earth lives began a long, long, long time ago. We cannot even comprehend it. His hospitality spans eternities. Since He laid every detail of groundwork (literally!), imagine His pure delight in the fact that we are here right now, having our earthly experience! He has considered and created every element. His preparation is the foundation of His hospitality. He balances preparation with work – and it inspires me to consider my prep work as I serve others. Every detail counts, every minute is worthwhile and worth it.
- Hospitality teaches and trusts. Millions of people visit Yellowstone each year to see the wildlife and remarkable geological thermal features. Nowhere else can so many geysers, hot springs, mud volcanoes and paint pots be found gurgling and spewing within such a concentrated area. The place sizzles with excitement – and safety risks. Park authorities post signs to inform and warn visitors of hazards, but it’s up to the people to sightsee smartly. I found it interesting that we didn’t spot a park rangers at populated boardwalks (without railings) that led us over boiling pools, or near the crowds creeping close to huge herds of bison (FYI: bison can run 45 mph and can gorge people with sharp horns!). At the Park, we were trusted, welcomed and enabled to make the experience our own.
Isn’t that much like our God’s hospitality to us? He welcomes us into this beautiful world, provides us with teachings, warnings and continuous instruction … and He also fully enables and trusts us to explore and make this earth-life experience what we will. Yes, dangerous wild animals and hot spots surround us, but He has mercifully built balanced bridges and boardwalks to get us through. He has given us our brains, our hearts and our feet. It’s up to us to step forward smartly and stick to His generous plan.
- Fellowship with fellow adventurers. During our time at Yellowstone, we made fast friends from all over the world. Fellow adventurers happily led us to their favorite spots, gave tips and shared knowledge. One woman in particular pointed us up the road to find some big horn sheep, and she told us that further along the path stood a pregnant moose. As we searched and searched to no avail, I wondered if she had thoughtlessly sent us on a wild sheep/moose hunt … but eventually we found both! Now, I warmly consider that woman as purposefully placed to lead us to these highlights of our day. I know God purposefully places fellow adventurers along our paths too – sometimes for us to speak up and share with, and other times for us to listen and learn from (there’s that balance again!). Having fellow adventurers is one more way God shows His hospitality for us. He will not leave us alone in the wilderness.
When time came for us to return home, and leave the wild beauty of Yellowstone and the faces of friends/families, we waved “so long” with swollen and joyful hearts. A renewed and refreshed spirit came with us. Sure, our bodies were tired – but we were also alive and awakened to new spiritual senses. We felt in awe of God’s preparation, plan, love and mercy. We felt linked closer to others, closer to His creations and closer to Him. Hospitality encompassed our hearts.
Now wouldn’t it be amazing to somehow exude similar feelings with others? What if we could have such an impact – or even a portion of it!? Well, it’s not only possible … it’s part of His plan. He shows us ways to offering hospitality, then we get to run wild with them! We can embrace our journey and offer hospitality to our fellow adventurers. They will leave our sides refreshed and refocused on what matters most.
Philemon 1:20 – “Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 7:13 – “Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.”
1 Corinthians 16:17-18 – “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours: therefore acknowledge ye them that are such.”
Invitation: Run wild with hospitality today! In His goodness, this earth life is prepared, planned and filled with love and mercy. Now we get to take that goodness and multiply it!