In my mind, Thanksgiving has always been a day reserved for friends. The pilgrims invited their new friends, the native Americans, to their Thanksgiving feast. That special day in 1621 become a time to celebrate and proclaim the blessings bestowed from the hand of a rich and gracious God. So why should I cloister myself with just my immediate and extended family? In the tradition of the first Thanksgiving, we should invite friends over to share our joy over God’s blessings, right? Even folks who are a tad removed from our comfort zones like people from different walks of life and dissimilar culture groups. Yeah?
It’s not that simple. But, by the grace of God, it can be overcome. That’s what my friend, Christina, discovered and in turn, taught me.
As she tells the story, her family never had people over. “We weren’t hospitable people. My husband’s family on the other hand…. I think that was the first time I received a genuine hug, maybe even a hug period. I was 18 and pregnant and these people were hugging me like they liked me. What was up with that?”
Christina still suffered anxiety at the thought of going to family dinners. Each holiday season, she admits, she had a tendency to get sick and would send her husband and kids off to the family dinner. Even today, she does an emotional hiccough when family members mention bringing guests over.
God will always provide the resources we need to do what He calls us to do – even when it involves something that does not come easily for us. Even if it means having people enter our house for a meal.
Christine tells the rest of the story:
“We’ve somehow befriended a man and his girlfriend. Actually she used to live next door to my husband’s grandma. This man is like 6-9 (very bikerish Hell’s Angel looking and very rough around the edges) and she’s like 5-1. He’s a prodigal son of a preacher and a praying mother. They didn’t have a working stove so, two years ago we invited them over for Thanksgiving. I discovered that they just don’t eat home cooked meals. PBJ and Chinese take-out. I invited them back last year and this year they will once again be coming over. He likes my creamed corn. I fix a big meal and then send all leftovers home with them.
It’s a huge blessing to me and I know it is to my husband. What’s great is our friendship has opened up doors. She never knew the Lord, had no idea about the gospel and he’d been beaten over the head with it as a child. Now he’s on fire for the Lord.”
Wow! Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone. Christina could have so easily used all the excuses I’ve heard hundreds of time. “It’s not my gift.” “I wasn’t raised this way.” “I’m not good at this.” Instead, she chose to reach beyond her discomfort and inabilities to meet the needs of strangers and give God a chance to win them back to Himself.
I’m stepping out of my comfort zone this Thanksgiving. I told my daughter, a graduate student, to feel free to bring home friends who didn’t have somewhere to go for Thanksgiving. She believed me and invited two Asian friends home for thanksgiving Week. Believe me, I really want to do this. Over the last year, Christ has kindled a fire in my belly for the International students on our public university campuses. My desire to obey Jesus precludes any anxiety about houseguests.
Yet, I’m still anxious. Like Christina, I didn’t grow up in a hospitality rich environment. Even though I’m a minister’s wife, that clutch of fear and anxiety still grips my chest every time I plan for guests. Stories like Christina’s remind me that God works through and beyond my imperfections. In spite of me, He uses me to reflect His love and grace in a way that will bring other people back to Himself. That’s my hope. That’s my prayer.
I wonder if my two new Asian friends will like pumpkin pie.