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Hospitality: Lord, Help Me Not Be A "Ghastly Guest"

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Faith's Firm Foundation: Hospitality: Lord, Help Me Not Be A "Ghastly Guest"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hospitality: Lord, Help Me Not Be A "Ghastly Guest"

*Disclaimer: This post is based on no particular person, real or fictional, and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental, not intentional, on the writer's part.

Oh, Lord, may I be winsome and kind, loving and other-centered, full of humility, grace and with the heart of a servant, as You are. Let me never show the qualities of The Ghastly Guest.  In speaking of this kind of "person" may I still show the love of Christ.  Use these words in the lives of my readers, Lord, but oh, Lord, use it in mine, as well. Amen.

     Writing about the Ghastly Guest has been more difficult than I, at first, imagined.  Perhaps it is conviction. On the other hand, perhaps it feels condemning and mean to speak so, even of an "imaginary" person.  Please bear with me as I attempt to describe and paint a picture of those whom we do not want to resemble.  Of course, this is the most exaggerated painting, with features all out of balance.  Still, "welcome" The Ghastly Family.
     The Ghastly Family is coming to dinner. They are self-centered, demanding, thoughtless, inconsiderate, greedy, over-everything: overtalking, overstaying, overbearing, but sometimes they are overquiet, over-speedily leaving and overaccomodating!  They're either Too loud or Too Quiet, Too comfortable or Too uncomfortable, but they're always inconsiderate, showing bad manners, sometime bad language. At times they can be crude, and coarse. May I describe one visit?
     The Ghastly Family arrives very late, as usual, and doesn't bother to call to let you know they will be late.  You know they have arrived before they came to the door--the whole neighborhood knows.  The little boys push past their parents, and spread out heading into all the rooms. Shut doors are no obstacle to them. Opening bedrooms, they head straight for your jewelry, and open cases, spreading things on the floor and bed. They threaten to drink or wash in your oils and lotions, before you catch up with them. Their mother is oblivious to where they are, what they are doing, or too laid-back to care. The girls have found your daughter's favorite doll, and are ripping her clothes off, and after discarding her carelessly, they take out, one by one, each and every game from the closet, never putting away one before taking out another, not stopping or desiring to play the game--no, their goal seems to be to create a scene of utter chaos in as short a time as possible. While you are attempting to entertain their parents, your children are helplessly trying to save their belongings, or perhaps they have been drawn into the behavior of mass destruction. The decibel level is now ear-shattering. You go to investigate, and they appear to be "playing," so you merely tell them to keep the noise to a lower level. A suggestion of a quiet activity is given, before returning to your adult guests. During the evening, these children will ask for many items which your children either don't have or are not allowed to play with. They will boldly ask for food, they will expect that your children are their servants, and tell them what to do, taking the role of "boss," instructing as to which game to play, who will go first, how the game is played, what your child(ren) are lacking in experiences, possessions, etc. Your children may hear words and about situations which you never intended for them to hear, ever.
     Any one of the members of this family, including the adults, will sit on the arms of the furniture (no matter how large these people are).  They will touch and handle your possessions, (no matter how precious or fragile), they will eat, to the last crumb, whatever you have sitting out for guests; the children will stand on beds and furniture, will rearrange items on tables and shelves, and the parents will not see or take any steps to supervise their children, leaving this to you. If you are put in this uncomfortable position, their children will look at you with an astounded expression, as though they are listening to a foreign language. They may stop their inappropriate behavior temporarily (more out of shock than obedience), but you will find them right back at it within moments.
     Mr. Ghastly thinks nothing of reading whatever you have laying out.  The Ghastly children really don't want to play and anything that's suggested sounds "boring." They don't want to share with anyone else.  The younger girl Ghastly screams and screams when her older brother pushes her down--he wants her nowhere near, for he sees that one of the toys is coveted, so he must be the one to have it. He assures everyone, however, that he has one just like it at home, only "better." But he will condescend to play with this one while here, (until some other smaller child wants a different toy, and then he will want that one, too.)
     Mr. Ghastly loudly tells of his latest achievements, and drops the names, as often as possible, of "important" and influential people with whom he has had contact.  Mrs. Ghastly corrects her husband on unimportant details of his story which makes Mr. Ghastly become irritated, even angry. When Mr. Ghastly is angry, he turns to sarcasm as his weapon against her (sometimes yelling and swearing) and the tension in the room escalates.  Mrs. Ghastly retreats to the kitchen, belittling her husband's behavior goodnaturedly (but still disrespectfully) on her way--she is always right, you know, and the sooner he realizes it, the better.  She then boasts of her latest bargain, which she's wearing--"You wouldn't believe how cheaply I got this!"  While you finish preparations for a tasty, but simple dinner, she manages to let out pieces of information about several other accomplishments in her family:  "Little Johnny is trained already, at only 9 months old! And Susie is reading at the second grade level--everyone says it's amazing for only 4!  And we were invited to that new family's house--have you been there yet? "They are Soooo Nice--we had the most wonderful time--Wow, she's amazing! Her home is spotless; she's a gourmet cook, she homeschools all 15 children, and she leads 2 Bible studies on the subject of Hospitality and Submission! I just love her! You should meet her!"  Then, in her most helpful tone, "You know, dear, if you'd like, I can tell you where you can get help for your Jimmy--I know his 'problem' must really distress you.  But don't worry, dear, I know just the person that can help you."  All the time she's talking, her eyes take in every inch of your kitchen, and you, and you feel pretty much like a failure by the time she's done.  She manages to make you feel judged, sized-up and shot down, and she really isn't saying anything, is she? It's just something about the way she acts.
     The baby has been screaming since the Ghastly Family entered.  Mrs. Ghastly pretty much ignores him, but bounces him continually on her hip while talking. His cries are not due to hunger or needing a change of diaper, but seem to be a response to the general tenor of the family. She has learned to ignore him.  Earlier, Mrs. Ghastly nursed him in the living room where the men are talking (well, Mr. Ghastly is talking) (something so "natural" as nursing isn't really immodest, and is a beautiful thing, so it shouldn't matter who is there, and she does cover up, though sometimes she has a little trouble getting everything adjusted).  She did notice your husband divert his eyes, and he did look a bit embarrassed, but obviously he has a problem, and needs to "get over it." This accomplished, causing no little commotion, she followed up by plopping down on the floor to deal with a very smelly diaper that needed changing, saying, "You don't mind if I change him right here, do you?"  Promptly throwing the offensive object in the kitchen garbage container, it continues to offend all through the remainder of the evening. 
     During dinner, the Ghastly Children slouch in their chairs, looking dismal.  They whine, cry, scream and those old enough to speak, complain about the food--"Yuck!" says one, pushing his plate away with disgust, spilling milk all over the tablecloth.  Mrs. Ghastly spends her whole meal pleading, coaxing and prodding them, her voice growing more and more perturbed, as she clearly is disgusted with this mealtime ritual.  (But not too disgusted to do something about it.)  Making excuses for them to you, she continues to try to sell them on eating "something," promising them dessert if they will just eat "one bite."  Mr. Ghastly seems oblivious to their presence, unless Mrs. Ghastly calls his attention to it.  One child likes to kick his foot against the table leg, another enjoys banging his cup on the table, while a third is clanking her spoon on the plate--it's a chaotic chorus of noise and bedlam! Conversation is difficult, to say the least, but Mr. Ghastly manages to raise his voice loud enough to be heard above the din.  Mr. Ghastly takes one bite and then goes on and on: he RAVES about his wife's recipe for the same dish. You feel like picking up your food and going home--except you are home, so where can you go? The only thing left is to wish they'd leave as soon as possible.  Several children who slipped away from the table to play, return wondering where dessert is.  By the time the meal is done most of the floor, tablecloth and chairs are covered with food. You are glad that this part of the visit is almost over, because being in the middle of this noise and tension has given you a splitting headache.  Ghastly Family leaves the table as though there's a fire, scraping their chairs, children racing to get to the favorite toys first.  (Only one toy is broken so far.  Too bad it was your oldest's favorite, a gift specially given by Grandma. No, of course Mr. and Mrs. Ghastly will not make their child buy a new one or even apologize.)  Oh, did I mention no one offers to help with the dishes, or clears their place at the table, and that the children leave the house strewn with toys and game pieces, dolls and dollclothes?  Tomorrow, you will find three things which the Ghastlys left at your house--not important things, but sometime they'll get them from you.

Lack of love is at the core of the Ghastly Family's ghastliness.

     Let's look at 1 Corinthians 13 and compare it to the qualities of a Ghastly Guest. "Charity suffereth long and is kind." (verse 4) The Ghastlys are demanding, expecting you to serve them, never satisfied, always expecting more, and don't show or express gratitude for what you do give them. They are impatient with each other, and you walk on eggshells while around them, fearing their displeasure with every aspect of the visit. "Charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." (verse 4) Perhaps it's because they are insecure, but the Ghastlys envy you for every blessing of the Lord you've received while they boast about every little thing about themselves: their plans, their children, their accomplishments, their bargains, their spouses, everything. "Charity is not easily provoked." The Ghastly children explode over every infringement (or perceived infringement) of "their rights." They even break out into fighting at times. Generally, at times, the whole Ghastly Family (including adults) is irritable with you and everyone else. But, not always. You see, they're sort of moody, so you never quite know what to expect of them. And some of them have pretty bad tempers.

     I think you've heard enough...  It makes me tired just to write about this visit! That's because the Ghastly Family is Exhausting!  You can't wait for them to leave.  You breathe a sigh of relief when they are gone.  Now you can finally enjoy the peace and quiet again and sit down and relax.
     May we always show love, whether showing hospitality, or receiving it as guests.

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Blogger Busy Mommy said...

I think I know this family :) We have had some very trying moments trying to show Gods love to them. I often found myself hiding somewhere for a quick prayer :)
Thank you for the reminder to also remember how to behave when we are the quest.

December 6, 2009 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Wendy said...

Hello Busy Mommy! and Welcome! Yes, perhaps I can write about this family because it's a conglomeration of things we've done or experienced in our lives. Showing love and being loving are not possible without God Who is Love. Any good I do, any love I show, is only because of Christ in my life. I'm glad you came and visited. I've begun to pray for my "followers," so I'll be praying for you. Take care!

December 6, 2009 at 10:25 PM  

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