I know exactly how Ruth felt when Boaz approached her as she gleaned in his fields. She was simultaneously stunned and comforted when he said, “I heard how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you did not know.” Read Ruth’s story in Ruth 2:1-13.
Here was a man who spoke out loud the words she had hidden in her heart; words of homesickness and trepidation. In the afterglow of Boaz’ words, Ruth felt validated. She was now freer to go ahead and transition into this new land with these new people, a refugee amongst strangers.
In 1973, as a freshman at Baylor University in Collins Dorm, I was unpacking memories with each item coming out of my large, black and brass sea trunk that had just arrived from Lebanon. Through tears of longing, I was startled out of my reminiscing reverie by a cheerful bouncy brunette who had just popped herself around my dormitory door. She smilingly announced, “Hi! I’m Leslie. Ooooh! Look at all that neat weird stuff! I can tell you’re a missionary kid (MK). My dad is an MK too, so I get it! If you start feeling lonely, just come on down the hall.”
And then she left. But, trailing behind her like bread crumbs were the nourishing gifts of welcoming validation and affirming encouragement. For that brief interlude, in the aftermath of that brief exchange, my homesickness dissipated. Instead, I became sharply alive to the memories of the land and people I had left behind, and it was OK.
Because you see, half of my thoughts and half of my blood is still in Lebanon, that land that grows people who love without censor, weep without shame, and whose every breath is hospitality. The very best memories connecting us to time and place, to land and people, are usually stimulated by the tastes and smells of hospitality learned in childhood. These memories bring both tears and smiles; tears because we miss that sense of belonging, and smiles because we are grateful for that sense of belonging.
There is beauty in the art of hospitality from the kitchen herb garden to the well-tossed salad, from the well-worn recipe card to the fresh loaf of bread, from the archival “mom” memories of how to make a pie crust to a bubbling fresh out of the oven apple pie. Hospitality means, if the light isn’t on, I’ll turn it on just for you. Hospitality speaks the words of welcome in whatever love language the newcomer needs to hear.
Heavenly Father, create in me daily the heart of hospitality that says, “Come in, have a seat, are you hungry?”
How can I pass on that same gift of hospitality that is my heritage which my friend gave me as a lonely displaced newcomer, and which Boaz gave the refugee Ruth?
They have told me all that you have done for your mother-in-law since your husband’s death, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you did not know before. The Lord reward your deed; may the Lord God under whose wings you have come to take refuge, give you all that you desire.