Amy Dodson-Watts contemplates how food justice builds and strengthens community.
How do we allow hospitality to transform us into a flourishing community?
What does it mean to flourish? Many of us may experience mental images of something akin to a flower blooming, literally burgeoning into what we as humans often consider its full beauty and glory. We know that there is more to the flower than what we see, but we tend to celebrate what we as humans judge to be its particular moment of thriving and beauty. Yet, if we look up Bible verses on flourishing, nearly all of them (almost depressingly) indicate that there is difficulty, or at least change, that we must engage and endure to reach the moment of our “full glory.” What’s that about?
A friend recently began an elimination diet, and in describing the headaches and withdrawals that she experienced in the first few days, remarked: “I realized that this is what flourishing feels like.” As her body was learning to transition away from its dependence on unhealthy foods, and to instead embrace more life-giving foods that nurture to her body and well-being, both she and her body had to learn to adjust to being fed in a different way. Flourishing is an ongoing process of transition and transformation, not a specific moment or achievement.
We are frequently taught to believe that difficulty or pain means that we are doing something that is harming us. In its basic concept, however, pain means only that what we are doing hurts. It may hurt because it is harming us; it may hurt because we are still attached to what we need to let go, and haven’t yet learned to release. Discernment matters here, because the wisdom in discernment helps us to understand whether we are to cease what we are doing that is causing damaging pain, or that we are to push through the pain and bear forward to reach our place of glory through flourishing.
We tend to perform hospitality in the same way in which we are taught to encounter pain. When we do welcome others or agree to share spaces, we share only up to the point or moment of discomfort. When we serve meals to those who are hungry, we rarely sit and eat with them, and heaven forbid that they be invited to serve with us. It would be uncomfortable. What would we talk about? How would we be together? Well…We could be children of God together. We could be sports fans together. We could be people who love music together. We could be. Together. We could be any number of things together, but we cannot discover what any of them may be until we choose to be brave, and push past our own discomfort or pain to witness what on the other side of that pain God is calling us to build and live.
It is when we say yes to living through and past our discomfort that we enter transformation, that we begin to flourish. Hospitality is an entry point; to choose to flourish together is to what we are called.
Transforming our communities from hospitality into flourishing.