This week I’ve been doing a lot of reading and studying about hospitality. About opening our home to others. As most of us do, we have a “Martha Stewart” pie-in-the-sky ideal of what that should look like. The invitation goes out. We have time to plan and prepare for the one(s) we have invited. Or, we have a group that comes each week and we serve and show our hospitality at that time. Reality then sets in and life happens, the invitation never gets sent in spite of all good intentions. The small group we wanted to invite over once a week never happens. It all falls through and our ideal is never realized.
So many times when I read about opening up my home to others, I cringe. Not because I don’t want to, but because I have three little men who like to stir things up all the time. I clean everything up, organize all the toys while they’re asleep, and they just mess them and the whole house up again the next day. We try to contain it in a couple of rooms, but as they get older, they want to be where we are, not confined to one or two room alone. Or I’ve washed the kitchen floor this morning, and by the time I get home at 5pm, it’s dirty again…how does that happen. How do I get ALL the clothes washed, folded and put away, and come home to a mountain of clothes again? And don’t get me started on the dirty dishes.
So my cringing inside is more about the state of my house, than the state of my heart. AND, I have come to realize that people are always in our house. From the babysitter who comes straight from class to go straight back to class…I have a hot meal on the table waiting for her when she arrives…to my husband’s computer business customers who come to get their computers fixed, but end up staying a couple hours confessing and talking with my husband…asking his advice, drinking a water or a coke (or even some dessert my son and I have made). My husband and I joke later about these customers, that they think he’s a priest and they’re going to confession…or that my husband is their best friend. But truly, they needed somewhere to go, someone to talk to, and my home and my husband were a safe haven for the moment.
I have even started to employ my oldest son who is five to take people their drinks or the plate of food I have prepared for them. He looks at me funny each time, but he does it. My asking him was not a conscious thought to “teach him hospitality”. I just wanted him to serve our guests; when I now sit down to think about it, subconsciously, I wanted to teach him a servant’s heart…show him what it means and how it feels to serve others.
So, in reality, what I thought I was not doing well, turns out to be my own overly-critical state of my mind. The hospitality we are showing is not the planned invite to dinner once a week, or the planned weekly meeting in my house. Ours is more spontaneous, but fits our family and our home.