To keep myself from going stir crazy while my husband and son were away on a trip a few weeks ago, I planned some day trips. One of these included a day with my 88-year old widowed mom who lives an hour away. We spent a day shopping, going to lunch and visiting. When our time together came to a close, she walked me out to my van, hugged me and said, “Do you know how you're feeling alone with Michael and Ian gone? Well, that's how I've felt every day since your dad passed away.”
She wasn’t whining; that’s not her style. She was simply sharing her honest feelings. While I make it a point to call and talk with her often, my mom's words stung that day. I often forget how much she misses my dad. She's done a great job of staying active and reaching out to others, but none of her activities make up for the gaping hole my dad’s passing left in her life. I still miss my dad, but my pain doesn’t come anywhere close to the pain she lives with every day. Her comment made me think how easy it is to overlook those in our lives who are lonely.
Most of us enjoy time alone, especially when we have children in the house, but when loneliness is forced upon us, it's an unwelcome intruder. We weren't meant to live life detached from others. God created us for community and modeled it for us in the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The apostle James understood the stinging pain of loneliness and saw us, the church, as the remedy to it:
“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” ~ James 1:27
Though James mentions only two specific groups here, orphans and widows, the list of people who could be added is endless. Our list might include folks who are new to our church, school, homeschool group, etc. They may be widows or widowers, single moms, or a college student away from home.
Develop an eye for those who appear alone. When you find them, introduce yourself and take an interest by asking them questions about themselves. Get them talking. Invite them for dinner or coffee. It doesn't take much more food to feed an extra person. Don’t worry about the cleanliness of your house or the fact that you’re not a gourmet cook. Believe me, they won’t care if your furniture is from Crate and Barrel, if your house passes the white glove test, or if your cooking is on par with that of Julia Child, but they will remember that you cared enough to share your life with them. Don’t worry if you’re a bit awkward or a little shy; they’re most likely feeling that way, too.
You may wonder how you can possibly fit one more thing on your plate. For most of us, it’s all we can do to take care of our family’s needs. While our own family should be our first priority, devotion to Christ demands that we step out of our comfort zone and invest in others. Every time we live out the Scriptures, we model the Gospel for our children in a more powerful way than our words alone ever could. Reaching out in this way shows our love and obedience to Christ and is its own reward. And finally, don’t be surprised when your hospitality results in some delightful new friendships.
“Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing.” ~Hebrews 13:2
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