Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Have You Ever Truly Felt Safe?

Hospitality Characteristic #2
Safe/ relaxed –   This person is not fidgety, or self-conscious. They are at ease with themselves and carry with them an attitude that everything is in its place and the day is going just like it should, even if it’s not.

Take a moment and think about where you feel most safe. Where are you most at ease and relaxed? Where or with whom do you feel most accepted? 

The answers to these questions can be very insightful in developing a hospitable attitude. In order to be a safe and relaxed haven for strangers and friends, you must understand where you feel safe and relaxed and why.

I cannot answer this question fully for you or present you with a three step process for creating this characteristic of hospitality in your everyday life, but I will describe for you where I feel safe and relaxed and how I try to create this space for those I cross paths with everyday.

I personally feel the safest when I am with people I know and trust, and who know me and trust me. I am most relaxed when those around me are relaxed. If those I am around are stressed or disgruntled or obviously worried about themselves or their surroundings, I find myself feeling the same things. I find myself taking on their worry or uneasiness.

Why do I feel safe at home? Well, for one, it’s familiar. It’s a place I have worked hard to create. The temperature, the decorations, and the food in the fridge are all things I have seen before and grown accustomed to. There are no surprises in this place. Most things are predictable and controlled.

I have realized I also feel safe when things are seemingly under control. I spent a few years in Moscow, Russia, and the buses and metros always felt safe to me as long as I I had space to move or I had easy access to all sides of me. That feeling of safety would quickly diminish with each extra person who entered my metro car. There were times when I was so crammed in that my feet were almost launched off the floor. It was in these times that I felt vulnerable and alone. Even if I was riding with others, they were no help to me if someone wanted to go through my pockets and take my belongings. I know people who did not like this feeling so much that they would take an extra thirty minutes to an hour to only ride buses. They did this only to provide themselves with the feeling of safety or control.

The crazy thing that I have found in my meanderings through life is that most of us gravitate to places where we feel safe. People will go out of their way to protect themselves from feeling unsafe or out of control. Hospitable people recognize this need and seek to create a place where people can feel at ease. This cannot happen unless this person knows how to create an atmosphere where there is peace instead of chaos.

This can happen on the street as you pass by someone or at the coffee shop or at school or even in your own home. The funny thing is that in reality this can happen wherever you go and in whatever place you find yourself. Most people in the West associate hospitality with hosting a meal and most likely the association creates an image of being in a home. The true attitude of hospitality does not happen only at a certain places, but must be present wherever you go. It is an attitude you possess and demonstrate wherever you go because it is a part of who you are.

My wife does this so well. She can make people feel safe when she is dropping Silas off at school, or when she meets that other mom at the playground, or when she invites the mom who doesn’t speak English to go to story time and shopping with her. She can of course present this safe and relaxed feel at home, but she makes people feel safe wherever she is.

The ability to create this feeling of safety and of being relaxed stems from a couple things: 1. Understanding fully what God has done for you in accepting you for who you are and forgiving you for your personal blemishes and 2. Learning to put your own fears and insecurities aside for a moment in order to offer a friendly smile to the people who are in your space.

Galatians 4:4-5 – “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.  God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”

These verses capture the essence of this principle of hospitality. When you remember that the attitude of hospitality stems only from the understanding of what God has done for us and the Holy Spirit’s powerful presence in our lives, then it begins to make sense. It is not in our nature to work hard to make someone else’s life safer or less stressful. Rather, it is our nature to protect ourselves and watch out for our own. The word in Galatians points us to a different pattern. God saw us living in the perpetual circle of guilt, shame, fear, and death. He saw fit to remove Himself from His comfortable place and enter our world of unrest in order to offer us and invite us into something beautiful. He offers us a perfect place of rest, feasting, and safety from the darkness. He left His comfortable place and came into our lives to simply offer safety and rest to us. That is beautiful!

When we begin to realize the great display of God’s love through the attitude of hospitality, we can learn to demonstrate a beautiful tangible expression of God’s desire for those we live among.

Is this easy? Absolutely not! It goes against everything our nature and our culture begs us to do. It is not easy, and that is why we must cry out to and rely on the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. When we ask Him to guide our lives, we must respond as we hear His voice. 

So as I end, let me challenge you with a quick little personal exercise. Consider your life for a second. Where do you feel most safe? Where do you feel most relaxed? Why do you feel safe and relaxed in those places? Now take the reasons why you feel safe and relaxed in those places and ask yourself one last question: What can I do to offer those things in my daily life to the people I find myself with or around?