True Visible Beauty

It used to bother me that hardly a Christmas or an Easter, a Fourth of July or a Labor Day could pass without my parents inviting people over for a meal. Widows. Vicars. College students. If you were going to be alone on a holiday {or pretty much any day}, Mom and Dad would find you, hug you and tell you what time the turkey would be ready.

Whether you liked turkey or not.

mom1

I wasn’t always such a fan. I didn’t want to have to sit politely at the table for hours. I didn’t want to have to behave and listen to stories of how our hometown used to look fifty years before I was born. I didn’t want to have to help wash the pretty dishes Mom used to make people feel special, the dishes that consequently couldn’t get tossed in the dishwasher when they’d left.

Sometimes I just seriously wanted a nap.

{This, I might note, has not changed.}

But my parents didn’t see it that way. They sat with little old ladies and high school students struggling to get along with their parents and drunks and the unemployed. They sat, and they listened.

For hours.

Entire mornings.

Full Sunday afternoons.

And they still do. It’s not unusual for my parents to hang up on me–albeit it graciously–on Saturday mornings because three or four of their widowed friends are coming over for brunch.

So for all my inward sighs and looks toward the clock and rehearsals in my head of how we ought to name our house “the place where fun goes to die,” watching my parents invite the lonely into their homes is good for me.

It is good for all of us.

mom2

We don’t talk about our widows and widowers much. How does the Church care for them? How do we remind them of their Baptism, the value and worth that are theirs on account of Christ?

What good word do we have for them when they feel lost, when the one person they were focused on caring for doesn’t need their care anymore? What do we tell them when they are too old to get a job but not old enough to not want one?

What comfort do we have to offer them when their own children and grandchildren are scurrying around with soccer and drivers’ ed, too busy to sit and hear their stories? What can we say to remind them that they may be lonely, but in Christ they are never alone?

We, too, hurt when our widowed friends hurt. We ache with them when they sob in longing for the husbands and wives they’ve lost. We hold them when they scream out in pain so sharp it can be felt. We hold back when they panic to the point they feel as though they can hardly draw a breath. We sit in silence when them when they simply can’t be alone. That is to say, we are given to show compassion and support to those for whom the “until death do us part” is a reality.

Tertullian, a church father writing in the second and third centuries, wrote about widows with great warmness. They were, he said, “God’s fair ones, God’s beloved. With Him they live, with Him they converse, with Him they treat on intimate terms day and night. Prayers are the dowry they bring the Lord and for them they receive His favors as marriage gifts in return.” He urged young women to “imitate the example . . . furnished by such women as these and, in your love for things of the spirit, you will bury . . . the flesh.”[1]

They are great gifts to us, Tertullian noted—the “sisters of ours—their names are known to the Lord—who, having seen their husbands go to God”—for they permit us to care for them in the body of Christ, even when we struggle to use the right words and know the right ways to show our love for them. But in so doing, they afford us yet another joy: the reward of seeing the kingdom of God at work. “So it is that the piety of our fellow Christians is a true visible beauty of the church,” Dr. Peter Scaer wrote. “And this beauty is the reflected beauty of God and the beauty of Christ living and working in and through His earthly family.”[2] Their grief over loss is turned to joy, and our uncertainty of how to care for them is given a purpose. God uses one as an example to the other, and the other as a means by which to care for the first. And in so doing, we are all brought into community with one another, and most importantly, into the arms of Him who would have us kneel at the foot of His cross, receiving from Him “the blessings of Heaven, which last forever.”[3] – excerpted from Hello. My Name Is Single. 

Someday, just maybe, we’ll go through an entire month or holiday season without a steady stream of houseguests at my parents’.

Actually, nope. We won’t.

Because as long as Mom can cook and Dad can make the lonely and the widowed and sad laugh, they will.

And that’s good for them.

And it’s good for me.

It’s good for all of us.

[1] Tertullian, 15.

[2] Scaer, Peter. For the Life of the World. July 2004. Vol. 8:3, pg. 6.

[3] Tertullian, 15.

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6 thoughts on “True Visible Beauty

  1. Thanks for sharing, Adriane. I have a lot to learn from your parents about hospitality and generosity! It’s so easy for me to think of time at home, including meal time, as OUR time (exclusive, not inclusive “our”). But even time at home is a gift from the Lord that he gives so we can serve our neighbor.

  2. I know I should be leaving a deep theological thought in response to your essay (it’s very good!), but really, I’m just obsessed with your kitchen photo. Is this your kitchen? Your parents’? It’s simply adorable.

  3. Adriane, Thank you dearly for this post. Thanks be to God for your parents and for you!

    A sister in Christ, Monica Boesdorfer…..

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