“Come on over, Come on in
Pull up your feet, take a load off your feet…”
Shania Twain, anyone? No? What were you doing in the summer of 1999, then? Because you were obviously not riding around in my car.
This catchy tune always comes to mind when I think about the topic of hospitality, which has been more and more frequent lately. Because of the example of my own parents as well as the repeated commands throughout the New Testament, I’ve always assumed that hospitality would be a major part of my ministry as an adult woman, especially when I agreed to take on Pastor’s Wife as one of my grown-up titles.
But as with all great ideas, there’s quite a gap between intending to do something, and reading books on a topic, and actually doing the thing. So for the past six months or so, I’ve been trying to close the gap in my own life. Because “hospitality” and “authentic community” are hot topics in evangelical life these days, you might be feeling the pressure of the gap yourself, and I want to encourage you with a few posts.
This is NOT because I’ve suddenly become Mary-and-Martha Stewart and I have discovered all the answers to Christian hospitality. Rather, I want to inspire you that if I can do it–as an introvert, a terrible cook, and a mother of two messy children– so can you!
Now sometimes we call it “hospitality” when we’re friendly at church and when we show up early to put out linens and flowers on the tables for a special event. I believe these things are important for creating a welcoming environment and helping people feel comfortable and valued when they show up to public places. But I strongly contend that these things cannot replace the simplest and most obvious meaning of the term, which is literally inviting people into your house.
I know. People just don’t do this any more. And maybe if you’re pursuing a relationship with someone you’ve never met before, you might opt to go on a first “date” at a neutral space like your local McAlister’s Deli. But inviting someone to eat food in your actual dining room sends a powerful message of “I’m not just being nice because I couldn’t escape to the bathroom before the pastor said to greet someone next to me. I am truly interested in cultivating a relationship with you.” (When I put it that way, doesn’t it actually sound EASIER to just say, “Can you come over for pizza on Tuesday?”)
I know: your house is small and messy, your kids are crazy, your schedule is full, or–worst of all– you might ask someone and they might say NO. Or, maybe for you it’s even scarier if they say YES.
There is something vulnerable about letting people, even friends, into your home. They might open your fridge and judge you for buying Go-gurt for your kids. They might use your bathroom and notice the dirty ring in your tub. They’ll see those unfinished projects and the dusty baseboards and the hand-me-down furniture. Your children will feel at home so they might take off their pants in front of the guests. This is all okay. (But do shoo the naked child back into the bathroom.)
Because your guests will also look at your bookshelves and discover your love for history; they’ll look at your photos and learn that you have three siblings and you all look like your dad; they’ll see the art on your wall and realize that you have hidden creative talents. When a friend sits in your comfy recliner, you can tell the story of how you inherited it from your grandma or how you found it for a steal at Big Lots. When she sees your clothes piled in baskets in the laundry room or the clutter on your kitchen counter, she will know that you, too, are a normal human being, despite whatever image you’ve been able to maintain on Sunday mornings.
I appreciate the motto over at the Nesting Place: “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.” It’s true of your house and your stuff, and it’s true of you and your crazy, chaotic family.
Because at the end of the day, what your friends will remember is not the slightly-cold vegetables or the crumbs on the floor or the streaking child. They’ll remember that you invited them in and showed them love. And that’s the real point of it all.
(Okay, they’ll probably remember the streaking child, too. But they’ll be laughing, even if you weren’t!)
Keep reading in this series: Ten Minutes to a Presentable House