I was reminded of this today when I read a post over at the (in)Courage blog called "Confessions of a Hospitality Hater". The very first line really struck me; the author (Heather) wrote:
"Why do I often close my doors, staying hidden behind the excuses: The children are loud, the house is a mess, the food is basic, and growing up my family never had anyone over?"
Why did this opening line particularly strike me? Because I am so very much the exact opposite of that. Show up unexpected at my door? It's fine, just give me a second to brush my hair and throw on some deodorant so I don't stink. Then be prepared for me to offer you drinks, popcorn, leftovers, a seat on our couch, porch, deck... doesn't matter to me. I might "apologize" for a messy floor, a couple of dishes in the sink, or the fact that I forgot to clean the bathroom this week... but truthfully?
I'm glad you're here. Or there. Whatever the right word is.
If you are closer to the personality of Heather of "Confessions of a Hospitality Hater", I wanted to encourage you a bit. God does call us to be hospitable and keep our doors open to our neighbors. In the mentioned post, she mentions checking on the verses below:
"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16, The Message
The last two sentences - "Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others you'll prompt people to open up with God..." - that's really what being hospitable is all about, isn't it? There is an old saying that everyone has heard: "Home is where the heart is" and it is SO incredibly true. When you let someone into your home, you are opening up your heart to them as well. You are most comfortable in your own home, even when there is a complete stranger or a new friend there. There is something so incredibly intimate about having someone over for even something so simple as a cup of tea.
Anyways - I love having people over and I recognize that not everyone is completely comfortable or knows how to be prepared to be hospitable even if they want to be. So... inspired by the "Confessions of a Hospitality Hater" post, I wanted to submit of my own tips. Some of these are sort of repeats of Heather's worded differently - but the message is still there;
- Always have a good stock of drinks on-hand. You can always order pizza, subs, or Chinese food if people are hungry, but drinks are difficult to get on short notice. My husband and I always have seltzer and water in the fridge and tea and coffee ready to brew.
- Try to keep something quick to make up on-hand. Some people keep frozen cookie dough, I keep popcorn that I can make in the air-popper. Heather mentions that the food you serve does NOT need to be complicated and I can't stress that enough either. Remember - people are there for you and your company, not your food.
- Don't worry if your house is not in perfect condition and do NOT apologize for it. Every time I've been in someone else's house I always think it's incredibly cleaner than mine and they think it's the messiest house ever. As long as you have a place for your guests to sit - even if you have to move toys or yesterday's newspaper - you're golden.
- Feeling stressed? Frazzled? Have company coming over or wanting to invite someone over? Go into your bathroom, take 3-5 slow, deep breaths. You have no idea how much this act of opening your lungs calms your soul and opens your heart. It's truly one of the best releases ever and a trick I've used a few times myself before people have come over for a visit if I've been in a bad place.
God put us on this planet to love one another, and opening our homes is an incredibly simple way that we can do this. Once love and friendship is in our homes, it's difficult for it to find its way out. So many memories are made with friends, family, and other guests that come through our homes that will make you laugh, cry, or smile in the years to come. Believe me when I tell you that it is so worth it when you open your doors to people to come in and hang out in your home and your heart.
So go ahead - take a deep breath, put a 12-pack of soda in your fridge, and invite someone over. And next time you're in my neck of the woods - stop by and say hi.
Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.
1 Peter 4:9, NLT