There is typically a dominant metaphor—a picture—that shapes our care for other people. It might not be held consciously, but as you scan your relationships, a picture will emerge. The possibilities include shepherd, brother, sister, father, mother, friend, priest and scores of others.
One I heard recently was that of host or hostess. It came from Jamie Rose and it identified how she and Melissa Clemens do counseling in West Philadelphia1. She said that she wrote about this image in a class paper that I read a few years ago, but I must have been too dull to notice how attractive it was. This time, hearing it from Jamie face to face, and witnessing how she graciously and sacrificially includes others, I immediately wanted to go to their West Philadelphia site and be part of the fun.
Counselors as inviting hosts
Let’s enjoy that image for a moment. When I think of a host or hostess, there are a few people who come to mind. A composite of them would look like this.
She decides to have some friends over for a meal. She makes the calls that morning and all six people are able to attend. In other words, when you get a call from this person for a meal, you clear out your calendar because you certainly don’t want to miss it.
She ponders a menu. She thinks aloud with her husband, and, as the dishes emerge in her mind, she can’t help but smile. Then, she is off to the store for the freshest of vegetables and fruits and a few special ingredients. By noon the kitchen becomes the hub of activity and joy. Her husband has now caught the vision, and together they indulge in a day of cooking and preparation for the guests.
By 6:30 p.m. the place is spotless though casual and comfy. Guests are greeted with hugs and just plain delight. Within a few minutes, everyone is family. Conversations are warm and refreshing, and, if you paused to consider the moment, the entire setting would seem . . . perfect. It is a full-on Babette’s Feast replete with sacrifice, the best of food, and fellowship.
A host has invited you, has done lots of preparation with you in mind, includes you as family, and wants everything to be just so—all to the end of blessing you.
The Divine host
This metaphor seems so perfect because it echoes heaven itself. The Divine host has invited us into his joy. He has been preparing a place for us, and it will, indeed, be perfect. He is inviting us to a banquet and we are to bring nothing. This is no pot luck—that would detract from the pleasure of the host and the glory of the occasion. We are to bring only our appetites.
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. (Is. 55:1-2)
It is a meal where every minute brings further insight into the sacrifice of the host, further delight in what he provided, and deeper love that seems so full you could explode, though you won’t. And it will be deeper yet, in another minute.
A host has already given great thought and care to the guests, long before they arrive. A host couldn’t imagine anything better than making that sacrifice for the ones who will be arriving. And the guests can be certain that, whatever they were expecting, they will receive something even better. Who could resist such an invitation?