“Be hospitable” the Bible teaches. You and the people around you need it — desperately (Romans 12:13, 1 Peter 4:9).
Recently, Kristi and I were blessed to appreciate the hospitality of C. S. Lewis. You might not expect such a brilliant scholar to be warm-hearted.
It started when we visited his home “The Kilns” in Oxford, England.
We strolled by his pond to reflect and pray. We sat in his lovely English garden and talked. With a small group of people we stood in each room of his house and listened to a tour guide share personal stories from his life.
As a boy in Ireland C. S. Lewis didn’t like his name “Clive Staples” and so he insisted on being called “Jack”, which was the name of a special dog he loved that died. It was a sad foreshadowing of things to come.
Little Jack cried for his mom. He was ill with a headache and toothache. He cried and cried, but she never came. She was ill with cancer and died when he was just nine years old.
Then his dad became depressed and Jack lost him too. He and his older brother Warnie became like two frightened sea urchins huddling together for warmth, trying to survive the thrashing waves of an inhospitable world.
Soon Jack was sent off to boarding schools in England, one after the other. He’d lost his dog, his mom, his family, his home, and his country. But he loved learning and he sought comfort in books. Lots of books.
Yet he became a wonderfully hospitable man. When his best friend died in the war he adopted his mother. When there were bombings in London he took in a group of children from the city to live in his home in the country. When readers of his books wrote to him he answered every letter, thousands of them. Even the stray cats in town knew that the place to find food, water, and warmth was at Jack’s house!
How does someone with little emotional nurture and much intellectualizing become warm-hearted for others?
Maybe it came from his older brother Warnie, or the teacher who took him under his wing, or J. R. R. Tolkien listening to him on “Addison’s Walk” at Oxford College, or his friends in “The Inklings” group, or the birds and flowers in his garden, or his soul friendship and marriage to Joy Gresham, or the Psalms in the Bible that put words to his grief when his wife died of cancer, just as his mom had.
In all these ways and more, Jack found that being with true friends, conversing and sharing a meal or a drink, he felt “lucky beyond desert to be in such company.” They cared for each other, learned and laughed. When they talked “something beyond the world” opened up to him.
Are you struggling with grief?
Do you tend to go into your head or stay busy to avoid feelings?
Jack Lewis’ life says you need to hear the divine welcome that resounds repeatedly from the Lord Jesus: “Come!… Come!… Come!…” (Matthew 4:19, 11:28, 14:29, 19:14, 22:4, 25:6, 25:21, 28:6)
It’s the spiritual hospitality begins with a welcoming smile that says, “I’m glad to see you!” It makes a person comfortable to sit and relax. It offers a drink and perhaps a meal. It gets conversation going with gentle, persistent curiosity and keeps it going with tender-hearted listening and empathy.
In all these ways and more the Lord Jesus speaks heaven’s word to you: “Come!” His shining face and motioning hand are for you and each person you can reach.
(Stories and insights are from A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C. S. Lewis.)
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