We have had a lot of guests round just lately and I mean a lot!!! Some folk around for supper almost every night of this past month. I thought it was time to write a post with a little bit about hospitality. Now before you think I am especially gifted in the hospitality department I want to announce – I.AM.Not… I am a natural recluse, in fact a hermit by nature. Why I am living in a house with so many people, let alone why members of my family are constantly inviting half the world over, is just one of life’s mysteries!!!
Anyway since this is a Sunday Snippet: Let’s begin at the beginning: What does the Bible say about hospitality…
Romans 12:13 (New International Version)
13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Practice hospitality, one of those two word sentences that are a command. I was sitting in church yesterday and got distracted by this verse!!! We are to practice hospitality. Not just if you would like to or if you can fit it in sometime. It helps to have a good definition of hospitality up your sleeve at a time like this and probably the best way to do this is to look at what hospitality isn’t. Hospitality isn’t trying to be better than the Jones’s, it isn’t entertaining all and sundry and it isn’t a way to show a couple of people your “oh so perfect life” once or twice a year…
What I like about this command is that as a mom of many I can easily achieve this at home – I don’t have to pack up my kids and go and preach the Gospel in a distant land. Really what I have to do is share my home, that is really only mine in name anyway, with “God’s people who are in need.” If you think about it, what a pleasure!!!
Whoever we are, not just the pastor’s wife, we are to “Practice” hospitality and that means that we are to keep on doing it, even when we aren’t very good at it – because let’s face it it is an area where we probably all feel we could do better… Well there is an answer: Practice, practice, practice.
Anyway I decided to see what else the Bible had to say about hospitality and I was sent to:
1 Peter 4:9 (New International Version)
9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Well, Ahem… that suddenly isn’t such an easy one!!! How often have I had folk arrive just as we have started school for the day, or just at bedtime and then they have lingered and lingered… And when I first got married and this whole hospitality thing became a bit of a reality for me!!! I felt like I was tidying for one guest as the next guest arrived and preparing a meal and cleaning up just as yet more folk arrive. I was full of excuses for not inviting folk over!!! When I discovered that hospitality meant living your life and letting folk in, just to visit alongside our life for a while then I was able to stop worrying about impressing guests and rather serving them. Let’s face it, nobody would visit a mom with eight kids at bed time unless they really needed to!!! As soon as I understood that I could handle it.
So here are se7en things that help us as a family, to practice hospitality:
- Find someone to emulate: I had a friend with an open home when I was a teenager, we could walk in any time, there were books everywhere to just pick up and read. There was always ice-cream in the freezer and she didn’t ever expect you to wash your dishes (dishes never occurred to me back then!!!!). That is my mental example of hospitality… my house doesn’t have to be perfectly tidy, but it does need to be comfortable.
- Practice, practice, practice: The more folk you have over and wandering through your home the easier it is to ask folk. You really do get better at it. One of our chief goals for our family is that we have servant hearts – here is a way for us to train toward that goal. Hopefully our children will carry on the same practice of hospitality in their own homes one day.
- Don’t assume folk don’t want to visit you: They may well, but just don’t know how to approach you. I used to assume folk wouldn’t want to visit us – we live far from the city center. Turns out people like to go for a drive and a visit and even an amble on the beach!!! We have been blessed when visiting churches in far away countries with perfect strangers asking us round for a meal. The way we can repay them is to ask visitors to our church round for a meal and it sure does spice up a boring old meal to have guests round to tell us interesting things about their lives.
- Don’t assume some folk are too important to visit you: Often my kids have begged me to ask someone that I would have thought was too busy or too important to visit us, only to discover they really were free or lonely. I had a lecturer who was out from Italy for the year once and finally a month before the end of the school year I plucked up the courage and asked her round. She had been home alone every week end the entire year. She had made no friends at work and didn’t know where to start. I learnt my lesson and now I just ask folk straight up…
- Don’t let total disarray happen: We keep our house pretty “picked up,” not perfect but a quick tidy before meals and a constant mopping of the bathroom floor(!!!) means that our house is pretty guest ready at all times. I didn’t say there weren’t dishes in the sink, or piles of laundry to trip through, but it is ready enough for stop in guests. Most folk who are visiting need something, even just company, and usually they won’t mind tripping over whatever we are doing.
- Different guests have different needs: Sometimes it is a pregnant mom desperate for a nap on the couch while her toddlers play, sometimes it is a family in the last week of the month that can’t face another meal of pasta and herbs. Sometimes it is people from afar in town for a short while who have a weekend without company, sometimes it is lonely students with nowhere to go over the holidays. Inevitably, if somebody visits our house for company they will find it – even if the company is very short and begging for a story.
- Schedule it: If you can’t face “drop-in guests” then schedule a time for guests. We have pizza’s every Saturday night and everyone in the family knows where they stand in the mechanics of that!!! The only thing that changes about our pizza nights is who we share them with. We have drop in visitors all the time but Saturday nights are guaranteed visitors. Otherwise we schedule rest as well – Sundays we never invite anyone over… if folk stop by that’s fine, but we never plan for it!!!
- Don’t Worry: I am the champion of worriers, always trying to make plans. I am aware that a stream of guests can literally eat you out of house and home but I have found that we have never had to go hungry and our guests have always had something to eat. Seriously we have had folk stop by and say: “We have these left over buns and we would you like you to have them,” just as we needed them for a sharing lunch with an entire Bible Study.
And the “se7en + 1th” thing…
As a student I was always so grateful to be on the receiving end of an Open Home, but as our home becomes more open I realize the blessing is really for those on the other side of an Open Home… We have met so many people and learnt so many things and worked together as a family to keep our house open. Seriously, the blessing is ours and we will keep practicing our hospitality skills. Some commands like: “Practice hospitality,” we are only too willing to try. And you never know in years to come we may even get a bit better at it!!!
I popped this post onto the Works For Me Wednesday Site – go and have a look there for all sorts of tips on absolutely anything.