The last in our series of reflections on the book on which our upcoming webinar is based, by Axia board member Tenbit Mitiku:
While reading Putting Joy into Practice: Seven Ways To Lift Your Spirit From The Early Church by Phoebe Farag Mikhail, one of the seven ways mentioned stood out to me. Hospitality is an integral element of many traditions around the world. It holds societies as glue from one generation to the next. As a small child in Ethiopia, I enjoyed being with my great-grandmother and witnessed her generous spirit. She had joy in practicing hospitality and humility to those considered low in society. When my great-grandmother passed away, strangers showed up to pay their respects for several weeks, but no one in our family knew who they were. When one of my great-aunts asked who they were, they told stories of how my great-grandmother helped them and fed them during their time of need.
My great-grandmother never broke bread until her neighbor and friend Mamite came. They had long conversations over the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which lasted an hour and a half! They talked about their family, and the community, they lived in and served. They updated each other on whom they needed to visit, the sick, the imprisoned, and those who had lost a loved one.
Despite having a large family and many animals to keep her busy throughout the day, my great-grandmother was the most joyous when people visited her. Most visitors were passersby – laborers, beggars, merchants, and strangers. She would invite them into the house, give them food and do anything she could to make their lives easier. She is remembered by most in her community as a woman who practiced hospitality and was joyful.
So the idea of hospitality is something that I grew up with as a core value in my family. A concept from Putting Joy into Practice stood out to me. The author mentions traveling alone in the context of welcoming strangers. Traveling alone can have different meanings. It may not mean going from one geographical location to another without company. It may instead mean being closed off or shunning others while living in the same community.
But perhaps more importantly, traveling alone can also mean becoming a stranger to oneself by not practicing patience, forgiveness, and humility. Are we able to imitate Christ in situations when someone disrespects us? When we have a rough day, we cannot help but resent being mistreated and run the risk of holding grudges. Are we able to respond calmly when someone keeps nagging us? In this context, traveling alone means walking away from the love of Christ.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to practice our faith in humility. If we welcome into our lives, or our homes, only those who are of significant social status or our superiors, what good would that be to us? Perhaps some of us are lonelier than others, depending on our day-to-day lives. Maybe we don’t recognize our loneliness because we are so consumed with our busy schedules. When we practice hospitality, it is to our benefit. When we make peace with those who wrong us, we are renewing the relationship.
Attending church services is one way of reminding ourselves that we are not traveling alone. Our faith unites us with fellow believers and through the church, one in Christ. We begin the Great Lent by asking forgiveness from one another. Christ also teaches us to inherit the kingdom of heaven, we should forgive one another and love our neighbor. When we live our lives through compassion and humility, we are imitating Christ. What can be more joyful than that?
You can sign up for the March 19 webinar here.
Tenbit Mitiku is an Axia board member.