Friday, March 23, 2007

How Deep Is Your Moat?

Thanks to The Lord of the Rings, (books and movies) Age of Empires II, (computer game) and Stephen Biesty’s Cross-sections Castle Book, my family is enamored of all things medieval, especially castles.

When we built our house ten years ago, we adopted a castle mentality. Peter was under such attack every day at his job, I determined that our new house would be a safe place to come each night. Bringing our children home to home-school, further enhanced this mindset.

Each night when Peter returned, we pulled up the drawbridge, turned the crocs loose in the moat and hunkered down for a night with just our family. We were safe inside the walls.

You might be asking, “Well, what’s wrong with that? Quality, family time is a good thing, right?”

Not necessarily, or at least not to the exclusion of all else.

I’ve recently been doing a bit of genealogy research, and I’ve discovered that my mother’s family came from Scotland. Her ancestors, the Masons, belong to Clan Sinclair, of Caithness, Northern Scotland. The family seat was Castle Sinclair-Girnigoe.

In viewing photographs of Castle Sinclair and other Scots castles, it has occurred to me there is nothing hospitable about these edifices. Castles are a defensive weapon, made for shelter and repelling attack. From the crenellations to the archery loops to the iron-clad portcullis, every facet of a castle is designed to protect the occupants during a siege and to discourage the enemy from approaching.

Herein lies the problem of the home/castle mentality. In my zeal to protect those I love from hurt and attack, I turned my house from home to fortress. I may occasionally lower the drawbridge for a carefully planned and conducted tour, but I don’t leave the gates wide open.
Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the call to be hospitable given us in Scripture. How can I maintain the safety of my refuge, and still be obedient? I’ve often fallen back on the excuse, “I don’t have the spiritual gift of hospitality.” (Sound familiar?) Under closer examination, this excuse is just that, an excuse. And a cover-up to mask feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, but that’s another story. ;-)

However, in searching the Scripture, I can’t find a passage or verse that says hospitality is something that should only be practiced by those who have a ‘gift’ for it. The truth is, possessing one strong spiritual gift doesn’t get you ‘off the hook’ where the other gifts are concerned. If I have the gift of teaching, am I not also to be kind? If I have the gift of mercy, am I not also required to share the gospel? And the fruit of the Spirit isn’t love OR joy OR peace. It is these AND so much more. There’s no picking through the fruit to find one you’re comfortable with!

We are commanded in Scripture to be given to or characterized by hospitality. (Romans 12:13) And not only that, but to practice hospitality WITHOUT complaining. (I Peter 4:9) {Does God know my heart, or what? He’s covered every contingency and loophole!}

In Acts 2:46-47, we are told the disciples demonstrated hospitality by eating together in one another’s houses, and by sharing what they had with any who had a need. As a result, God blessed them and the church, adding believers daily to their number. Nowhere is a hospitality committee mentioned. And nowhere does it refer to a drawbridge, a moat or a secret password to get past the guards.

I challenge you to consider: How deep is the moat surrounding your home and life? When the opportunity to exercise hospitality arises, are you more likely to shout from behind the portcullis, “Halt! Who goes there?” Or in the words of Gandalf do you say, “Speak, Friend, and enter!” (Told you Lord of the Rings was big at my castle…er, house.)


  1. I found your - um - castle to be very hospitable! You sell yourself short on your gifts, methinks. Your home has a lovely aura of peace and I enjoyed crossing the drawbridge very much.
    But I did wonder about all those crocs passing the windows each night...LOL

  2. How appropriate! Next week (April 1) I'm going to start the SHAPE (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience) study with the college class at my church. I've been reviewing my notes from last time I taught this a couple of years ago, and ran across almost exactly what you wrote: just because hospitality is one of my two lowest scoring gifts (only one point above giving [1] and two points above mercy [0]), all that means is that I have to work harder at being hospitable. Added to that is my introverted personality which revels in solitude.

    So, at Christmas this year, I bit the bullet big time--when the person who'd volunteered to host our MTCW Christmas brunch had to recind the offer, we couldn't find another place to do it that's centrally located . . . except my very small house. But I stepped out on faith, ignored everything in me that railed against the idea, and offered my house as a place to meet and eat. And you know what? We had a wonderful time.

    Now that I'm going to be teaching the college group, while it's still small in the beginning, I plan to invite anyone who wants to come over at least once a month for movies or games and "pot luck" (I'll provide the meat and they provide the sides). And I plan to start an "adopt a student or single" program at church to make everyone aware that there are members of the church who have to spend holidays alone--and encourage them to reach out to college students and singles and invite them into their homes for special occasions. I plan to invite any college student who can't go home for Thanksgiving over to my house this year. If it's one or if it's twenty, we'll have a wonderful time. And I might even invite them over on Friday to watch football and help me put up my tree and lights! :-)

  3. You ladies are way nicer than me. My moat is deep and wide, and I love it that way! I have serious social phobes, and I almost feel violated when people show up at our place unannounced. I enjoy having our personal space, and I don't know how to change it other than to try harder. I think I was on overload back when I was a career girl and had tons of daily human contact. The first thing I did when I started staying home was to fill the moat.


  4. Not sure a Heathen should weigh in on this discussion, but I agree with Donna, I think you sell yourself short. Perhaps you are taking things too literally. Hospitality isn't just opening up your home to friends and strangers, but isn't it opening up yourself? Helping out a friend with a problem. A kind word to a stranger. Spending time chatting with a friend near or far? These are hospitable acts, but don't necessarily have to be done in your own home. Just a thought. (-;