Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. – 1 Peter 4:9 (ESV)
When the temperature dropped in Iowa, a stray skinny alley cat cried and shivered outside our backdoor, so we started setting out a bit of food. We posted her picture online to see if anyone had lost a teenage tabby with a big appetite, but no one claimed her, and eventually she claimed us. After a vet visit and microchip marked her as ours, we named her Hildegard. She discovered the joy of sleeping inside but she would never be a house cat. Each morning, for the last three years, she has patrolled the perimeter of our urban jungle, protecting her home from skunks, snakes, and an obstinate groundhog who appears to be in love with her.
Just the other day, as we sat on the front porch, a couple stopped their walk and pointed to Hildegard, who was keeping watch from the railing like a jaguar, one paw hanging down. “Is that your cat?” the man asked, as Hildegard perked up at the sound of his voice. We assured him she was, and he said, “Well, my wife’s been feeding that cat every morning!”
Suddenly Hildegard plopped to the sidewalk with an audible thud that revealed she had indeed been getting a little chunky. As the man tickled her stomach and cooed to her in their own special language, the scope of Hildegard’s betrayal hit me. All this time, she had another secret family!
For a minute there, I wanted to take back all the hospitality, take back all the affection, and definitely take back all the vet bills. But that’s not how hospitality works. It is supposed to be abundant. Hildegard found it everywhere and that’s the way God wants it.
As the birth of Jesus approaches, remind me to show hospitality without grumbling and without keeping score. Amen.