Rarely does the idea of hospitality involve a super natural impartation. It more commonly involves an experience with someone from the South or a visit to grandmother’s house. Regardless, what hospitality does is demand is an attitude of service.
In one of the most interesting experiences of Jesus’ journey, He models this idea of service in its purest form:
“Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” John 13:3-5
The context of this moment is equally as significant as the act of Jesus actually washing his disciples’ feet. The supper is taking place within days of His arrest and crucifixion. Any one else would have been doing what they enjoy most – eating their favorite meal, sitting amongst the people they love most. Not Jesus. He purposefully chose to humble Himself before his disciples and in one of the most socially degrading acts, wash their feet.
Henri Nouwen talks about a similar kind of humility. In his book The Wounded Healer he describes hospitality of emotion. He opens his book with a discussion between a minister and a man who has lived some of life’s most trying situations. Nouwen describes how the most common reaction for most people would be to immediately offer a suggestion to this man about how to fix, change, or alleviate the pain he has as a result of his life experiences. The other option for dealing with pain is to create a place of hospitality for the pain to become part of the process of healing rather than a problem that needs a solution.
Nouwen argues for people to begin to be OK with not being OK. For husbands and wives to begin to address the issues causing pain in their marriages, they must first be willing to confront the emotions associated with the pain and be welcoming for their spouse to do the same thing. Husbands, it is not fair for you to simply talk about your wife’s pain so she can fix it. Wives, husbands do not need you to point out how wrong they are for feeling, acting, or thinking certain things. Rather aim to create a space for the emotions of each spouse to be heard – truly heard.
How is this possible? It is as simple as listening without expectation. Nouwen calls for healing to take place in the midst of current pain. There is no better way to open the pathways of communication then to encourage the emotional position of the NOW – however OK or NOT it is. From here, both spouses can be heard and emotions can be regarded as valuable pieces of solution rather than just problems to be fixed. Jesus made a place for the vulnerability for Himself and His disciples. May His example teach diligently teach us the hospitality of emotion towards our spouses.