“The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel safe and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment” -Shauna Niequist. Sometimes though, thanks to social media and Pinterest, it has become something that must be lavish, grand and splendid. When presented with the opportunity to host people in my home, I immediately think of several excuses. Time, how messy my house is, what will I prepare, will there be enough room, what if they don’t have a good time. Those are just a few of my initial thoughts. I could believe the lie that I don’t have enough time, my food isn’t fancy enough, and my house isn’t clean enough (ok, that one might be true). But I believe availability trumps splendid. And vulnerability trumps fancy. And authenticity trumps cleanliness.
When I have the chance to invite others over, the first thing I do is simplify what I can. I do what I’m capable of. If I am too overwhelmed to make a meal, I buy a prepared one at Costco and server it. If I don’t have time to bake, I go to Trader Joe’s and buy a dessert, it tastes homemade. I try not to let the little things stop me from engaging with others. Although food always makes a get together better, the most important part of a gathering is fostering the relationships. And that can happen regardless of where the food comes from.
The next thing I do is check my motives. Am I doing this because it’s what God calls us to or for another reason? There are several verses about hospitality in the Bible and all of them are commands to be hospitable, not suggestions. My favorite of those verses is Hebrews 13:2, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” If I am doing it for the right reason, I won’t get caught up with my fears and frets about my house and food.
I have also shifted my expectations when I host others. In Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst, she talks about a shift she made that helped her change her focus in social settings. “Here’s the secret shift we must make: Do I walk into situations prepared with the fullness of God in me, free to look to bless others? Or do I walk into situations empty and dependent on others to look for ways to bless me? Being full of God’s love settles, empowers, and brings out the best of who we are. On the other hand, the more full of the flesh we are, the more we grab at anyone and anything to fill that ache for love and acceptance.” If I am looking for ways to fill others up, the menial things loose their importance.
Those times I have felt most welcomed and accepted are when people opened up their homes and showed me who they really were. They didn’t put on a front or a facade, they were real and authentic. I don’t always remember what was served for dinner, but I always remember the connection and community. And that is what I want to imitate. It doesn’t have to be that hard, we just have to be willing.