Last year, before graduation from high school, our oldest son was searching for the answer to the looming question, “What do I want to do with my life.” Due to being moved up in the middle of his fourth grade year and already being young for his grade with a summer birthday, he walked the stage at just 16. It’s hard enough for an 18-year-old to try to figure out what the future holds, but for a sixteen year old, who lacks two more years of maturity, it’s even tougher.
To add to the struggle, similarly intelligent peers all seemed to be headed in one direction. I remember sitting at his national merit award breakfast, cheering, as one after another of the winners came forward to receive their certificate of achievement. As a part of the ceremony, the superintendent shared with the crowd of family and friends what each one of them wanted to study after high school. Again and again we heard the same thing. It seemed each one of the students was going to go into the field of engineering. Russel was only one of two kids who listed business, or anything other than engineering, as his area of interest.
As we left the ceremony I couldn’t stop thinking about what unfolded there. A group of highly intelligent kids all feeling like they had one or two choices of fields to go into to use the gift of knowledge and understanding God blessed them with. Now I am not knocking the field of engineering. I have a degree in Biomedical engineering myself. What I questioned was the thought and steering they’d received that intelligence had few options after high school. As I talked with Russel about it, I told him not to put himself in any box. I said intelligence can be used in any field or area of interest.
There have been plenty of times I’ve offered advice to my teen age son, and it wasn’t received. This time, by my surprise, it was fully embraced! I discovered this after Russel went to visit a University of Houston Open House; the same school where he is now attending college. He came back from that orientation so excited about what he’d found as an option for study. He’d met a guide there who was majoring in Hotel and Restaurant management, and after spending time listening to the ins and outs of what that entails; he was set that this field was for him!
Now, I have to be honest, I didn’t jump up and down at the news initially. I thought, “He went too far!” I thought he was messing with me at first, saying that just to see if I’d stand by what I said. But he wasn’t. He was dead serious. As I researched the field and had time to process myself, I realized what an opportunity this was for him. Yes, people who own or run hotels, restaurants, or country clubs make good money. That’s important for his future ability to support a family in the way he’d like to. But it’s more than that. This was a business degree that would teach him how to focus on the needs of people. Russel didn’t want to be in a cube. He wanted to interact and work with others. It’s perfect for that. And what it teaches, hospitality, is something he can use anywhere.
I remember when we were launching the West Campus, I taught our team on the topic of hospitality. This past Sunday I had a chance to speak to the guest services team at our church, and as I thought about what I wanted to share, this same message came back to mind. It’s fitting for what we do on Sunday’s; it’s fitting for any area of our lives.
Many of those I talked with were like me. Before learning it’s true meaning, when I heard the word, hospitality, I thought of magazines like Southern Living that taught how to set a table well, or how to arrange our homes in such a way that people would automatically feel welcome. In a church or business setting, I thought of hospitality teams as just those who served food or drinks to guests and others, or those who set the tables and made rooms beautiful for use. That can be a part of it, but hospitality is so much more than that. It was while studying Romans 12:13, that I found this out. Romans 12:13, says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
The Greek word used there for hospitality, is philoxenia, which means love to strangers. So on Sundays, any time anyone comes in the doors of the church, we have a chance to offer hospitality. For Russel, anytime he works at the Hilton on campus at the University, while in training, he has a chance to practice hospitality. Hospitality is showing God’s love to all who come our way in any setting.
When we look at hospitality that way, we realize we have a chance to offer hospitality anywhere we go. We can offer hospitality at the grocery store by offering to put up someone’s cart, or help load groceries, or even by just sharing a smile and kind word to someone who seems to be having a tough day. We can offer hospitality at the office by blessing a coworker in some way. We don’t have to have perfect homes to offer hospitality. We don’t have to be Pinterest or Southern Living Queens. All we have to be is people who want to be vessels God can use to pour his love through to touch hurting humanity and all people with his love.
We are all in the hospitality industry! What a blessing it is to be used by God in this way.
Let’s Pray: Father God, thank you for each and every opportunity I have to offer love to all you bring across my path today and every day. I recognize I am an imperfect vessel, and I thank you that you use me, even with all of my flaws and my desperate need of you, to pour your love out to those around me. Help me to be tuned in to needs everywhere. Give me a willing heart to obey your promptings to practice hospitality. Help me to remember it’s not about me, but about what you can do through me. I love you Jesus, amen.