Hospitality has been a hallmark of our family. My husband, who’s a little crazy, will invite people over at the drop of a hat. Now that he is serving as the pastor of Pathway Community Church, we are having company often! In fact, I have a friend from church coming over this very evening.
In our prior ministry with New Tribes Bible Institute, we invited a family of missionaries over. I was working; we were in ministry; my children were small. I had worked so hard to clear the surfaces and provide a comfortable place to welcome them, and before she left, the wife came to me and quietly thanked me for inviting them in, even though my house was not well prepared. What!?!?!?
She reached into my soul and crushed me. I had always feared that my level of clean did not measure up, that somehow what I thought was clean really was a disaster, and I was the only one NOT in on the little secret. Now she confirmed my greatest fears: My home wasn’t good enough; I wasn’t good enough.
Fortunately, my wise husband reminded me the problem was with her, not with me. My home was reasonably clean, not spotless, and I had known it wasn’t spotless. I had done all I could in the time I had to prepare for her and make her feel welcome. She actually meant what she said as a compliment, even though it sliced my spirit. She meant to say, “I know you are busy and that having us over was not convenient for you, but thank you for making me feel welcomed anyway.” Words just weren’t her jam.
These days, I have people over often. All these years later, I still have a little one to create clutter in my house, but I manage to tidy up a bit quicker and more thoroughly now with so much experience. Still, I find myself stressing over a crumb of popcorn from last night’s movie that escaped the vacuum’s fury, or the dried coffee spot on the counter that I missed. I notice every flaw the moment a guest appears at my door.
There’s a risk associated with company; they may criticize and make me feel that I don’t measure up. Great risks usher in great rewards, though: having company models our Christian attitude toward others. We should be known for openness and hospitality. It also lays a foundation for ministry to others, and allows them to minister to us! Hospitality isn’t always the goal, but a way to grow in our relationship to Christ and to one another.
Karen Ehman’s A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others challenged me this week to think through my hospitality habits, not so much what I do but why. After a quick tour through the New Testament passages that mention the welcoming of others, I developed these challenge questions to make sure my actions and my motivations align. Perhaps they’ll help you as well:
- Is my home a welcoming place? Notice I didn’t ask if it was a perfectly clean place, but a welcoming place.
- Have I set my table to serve others or to impress them?
- Will my efforts set my guests at ease or make them nervous they might use the wrong fork or break a piece of a treasured place setting?
- Do I think of and pray for my guests as I prepare for them or simply stress over the preparations?
- Am I relaxed about my guests or wigging out?
- Would I be okay entertaining if I could not serve a great meal or set a beautiful table? Why or Why not?
- Am I prepping to my guests’ level of comfort or to my own?
I’ll keep on setting the table, and y’all just Come on in!
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.