I love people.
I love talking with people, and finding out about their lives. I love trying to think up the right questions that will get people to open up in a real and honest way. I love figuring out how to share myself with them so they’ll feel comfortable about sharing themselves with me.
In this way, I am like my dad.
I also love feeding people. I tend to show love by making good things for people to eat. Delicious treats = love.
In this way, I am like my mom.
With these things in mind, one would think I’d be all over the idea of hospitality. It would seem like a combination of all the things I love about spending time with people – feeding them, spending time with them, talking and sharing life with them.
But every time I’ve taken a spiritual gifts test, hospitality has been right near the bottom of my list, along with the gift of prophesy and miraculous healing.
I think a perfectionist streak is the reason for this. In the past, company in our home has always caused a lot of stress, because I tried to make everything perfect.
Perfect food, perfect house, perfect family, providing the perfect evening.
I guess that’s why it’s called “entertaining”. It can become quite the performance.
I didn’t really enjoy it all that much.
But one day, our friends invited us over for supper, and forever changed my view of hospitality.
They didn’t answer the door when we arrived, which was a bit strange. We could hear kids in the backyard, however, so we walked around to the back of the house.
And there sat our hosts, in lawn chairs by their fire pit, watching the kids jumping on the trampoline.
They were incredibly warm and welcoming, and we joined them by the fire while Anika ran off to join the kids. After talking for awhile, one of our hosts disappeared inside, soon returning with a tray containing everything we needed for a wiener roast.
We ate veggies and hotdogs.
It was delicious. And it was the most relaxed meal I can remember having at someone’s house.
They weren’t “entertaining” – they were showing hospitality.
They fed us with so much more than hotdogs. Our conversation was deep and meaningful, and there was nothing to distract from true connection. We just sat under the trees and shared life.
Because hospitality is not one of my “gifts”, I considered myself “off the hook” for a long time. We would occasionally have someone over for a meal, but not very often.
And then one day, I was opening my fridge door, to which was taped a passage of Scripture I was trying to memorize. It was Romans 12:9-12
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
That day, my eyes landed right on the last sentence: Practice hospitality.
And it suddenly hit me – I didn’t have to be good at it, I just had to practice it. And I was supposed to be doing it, no matter what the spiritual gifts tests said.
That thought stayed uncomfortably in my mind.
It’s a lot of work to have people over for a meal. Or was I making it more work than it needed to be?
We didn’t have time to have people over. Or were we not making time for something we should really be doing?
I had far too many things to do around the house before I was ready for company. Or was I just making excuses and forgetting the true purpose of hospitality?
When we found out we would be moving into a beautiful new home in Niverville, Ben and I both felt it was time for some changes. It was time to share our home, our family, our life, with people, on a very regular basis.
I had no idea, but moving away from camp was great training for this new en devour. At camp, we all took turns hosting Bible study in our homes. When we started packing, and turning our house upside-down in preparation for moving, we still continued to have people in our home. No matter what it looked like.
And trust me, sometimes it looked pretty crazy.
It was humbling and difficult for me to invite people into our chaos at first, but I got used to it. Good grief, we were moving – it anyone had an excuse, we did.
When we moved to our new house, one of the first things we did was find the barbeque. And then we started inviting people over. Boxes lined the living room, and our first guests arrived before we’d even been living here a week.
And it was good.
We kept at it. And slowly, things began to change for me.
I got over my need for perfection. (Mostly! It still tries to rear it’s ugly head sometimes…)
I learned that as long as the table is set, it looks like food is coming, even if my timing is way off, and we don’t eat right when people arrive.
I learned that watermelon makes the best dessert, and requires almost no preparation.
I learned that it does take some work and effort to get ready for company, and this is right and good. I am putting effort into caring for the needs of other people.
I learned that once you get going, entertaining is not nearly as intimidating as it first appears. And I hope we’re having a lot more “hospitality” around here than “entertaining”. I hope we are showing warmth and welcome to the people who come into our home.
It is completely out of my comfort zone. But you know what? My comfort zone is changing. And I will keep forcing myself to do it, practicing and practicing until it becomes part of me.
And wonderful things are happening in the meantime. It was well worth the effort of a meal to be able to watch our friends playing Polly Pockets with Ben and the girls, putting on a wildly imaginative performance of Narnia-Meets-Star Wars-Meets-Pixie Hollow. Usually, you have to pay to see dramatic performances this good….