We have been studying the U.S. Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter, Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan – especially the section on the Sacrament of Matrimony. They speak of the graces of matrimony. Grace can be defined as “God’s presence in our lives” and graces are there when we love the way God loves.
We were intrigued by the possibilities offered when we practice hospitality in our marriage. We were having a discussion with a friend about this and she led us to a quote from Amy Grant and her husband Vince Gill.
“Vince and I were driving in the car…and I was spilling my guts out to him… Eventually he made a comment or two that made me feel as if he fully understood me… I tried to communicate my wonder in being fully understood by a man. Finally he said…I love you but I can’t say I always understand you. What I can say is that I welcome you. I welcome you, and whatever you bring to the table is enough.”
When I, Rita, heard this, it struck some things in me about our relationship. I don’t always understand Bob’s passion for understanding how things work, his frustration with politics and his never ending quest for knowledge no matter what the topic. At other times I find it difficult to get him to understand the depths of feeling I have for caring about other people, joy in little things and the fun of owning shoes. But no matter what I say or do, it doesn’t matter, I always have the sense of being welcomed whether it is by the twinkle in his eye, the way he gathers me into his arms, the conversations we have on a myriad of topics, his quirky sense of humor or at times the way he can embarrass me.
(Bob) Hospitality calls me to be a welcoming “home” for Rita, a place where she feels warm and loved, where she can be herself and know that she will not be rejected or turned away. I try to do that and Rita does so for me. Snuggling is great hospitality – she slides over in bed and puts her head on my chest for a short time and I feel wonderfully loved. She has a little grin and a twinkle in her eye just for me that can melt me inside from across the room. I love to watch her interact with other people and am amazed at her ability to find just the right thing to say in seemingly any situation. She makes me laugh and her teasing tells me I am loved. She is the person I go to for an intelligent discussion and the one who challenges me when I am wrong.
Hospitality calls us to go beyond ourselves to others. We should provide the environment children need to be nurtured and helped to grow into loving and productive adults. That extends to the children in our neighborhood and our children’s friends. The kids on our block to call me Mr. Bob and as they grow up I continue to ask them how they are doing and encourage them in sports and activities. Some of them are a little shy but I almost always get a smile. Our children’s friends continued to be welcome, even as they brought friends home from college. One year we got a card from one of their friends addressed to the “Boeke Hotel”. We extend hospitality to people who come into our lives briefly, e.g. as they check out our groceries, by smiling and thanking them for their service. We even offer hospitality to people we will never meet. We have stopped having garage sales and instead donate useful clothing and other items to Goodwill or other charities where they can be used by someone with less than we have.
We owned many used cars in our lives, but when our finances allowed we have purchased new cars. Many people will never be able to purchase a new car but are able to purchase that car when it is a few years old and has some miles on it. When I sold my last car, it was ten years old but had some miles left on it. A young couple with two young children really wanted the car but their budget was less than I was hoping to get for it. I sold them the car at the price they could afford and am pleased that I could do so. I pray that it is serving them well.
Think about the ways that you offer hospitality to your spouse and others. If you can, “kick it up a notch.” We assure you that your marriage will be enriched beyond your imagination.
Please add your comments below. Share with us ways that you have found to be warm and welcoming to others and how that makes your marriage better.