Thursday, November 15, 2012

Confessions of the Hospitably-Challenged

Have you ever read a Bible verse and wish you hadn’t?  Oh, come on!  Seriously.  Have you ever read something and it hit you in a way that you wish it hadn’t because now you have the burden of walking it out?  Yeah.  That happened to me.
Practice hospitality.  That’s what Romans 12:13 says.  I must admit, I always thought that hospitality was a gift…one of which I did not feel that I was given.    I grew up in a home where we didn’t have people over and we didn’t go to other people’s houses.  I was isolated.  But you know, it worked with my personality.  I grew to be an analytical, quirky girl.  I loved being around people, but when the tables were turned and I was responsible for entertaining, everything changed.
For many years, we continued to isolate ourselves.  My husband is quiet.  That is an understatement.  He’s really, really quiet.  This only exacerbated my great anxiety of entertaining!  What if he didn’t have anything to say and everyone is expecting me to fill in the blanks!!  I used the excuse of busyness, space, season of life.  I was honestly always embarrassed by my tiny house, its “lived in” appearance, and it’s less than wonderful furnishings.  Going to someone else’s house was always a pleasure, but I justified so many times that I couldn’t give someone that same pleasure because it was just not in my calling.   While we both loved being with other people, but we were just not “natural entertainers.”

But about a year ago, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  That good ol’ verse didn’t say to “be an entertainer,” but to “practice hospitality.”  Quite different if you think about it! 

Extending hospitality blesses those who gather in your home while also chiseling our character.  When we invite someone in our home, walk down the street to another’s home for a chat or with a gift, or even entertain conversation in a coffee shop, we make real heart connections and transform a casual acquaintance to friendship.  The intimacy of our hospitality can bring encouragement, healing, and joy to another’s life.  Why wouldn’t we practice it?  I have learned of similar heart issues, shared pain with someone I barely knew, and served as a sympathetic ear to someone who would not just as readily pour out their heart in an otherwise inhospitable setting.

Extending hospitality also develops within us a servant’s heart.  Admittedly, I sometimes struggled with the basics, like offering something to drink! That may sound awful to some of you…but honest to goodness, this was something that was never a part of my life and was a foreign concept to me.  I realized that just being on the receiving end of hospitality does not automatically certify you as resident hospitable expert…we must practice!  It also requires you to quiet those self-defeating thoughts that you are not good enough, smart enough, or important enough to offer someone a moment of your time, your listening ear, and your love.

I guess the point of this post is to encourage those of you who have been blessed by the gift of hospitality and those of you who shudder at the thought of it! 

To those with the gift…man, I envy you!  Many have had me in their home, and have made welcoming me seem so effortless!  Keep it up!  I imagine that for people who operate with this gift, it is a joy to have people in your home and to extend kindness to your friends and neighbors around you.  I imagine it comes naturally and is an anticipated calendar event!  Fill up your calendars!  I have sat in many comfortable homes throughout the years with people brimming with joy, and have poured out my heart and built valuable relationships.  It is easy to share and listen when we feel comfortable, and you are a special breed of people who can easily make others feel so comfortable!

To those of you like me who are, ahem, less than gifted-practice, practice, practice!  I would never have some amazing friendships that I have today had I not stepped out and opened my home.  Truthfully, I am still sometimes self-conscious about my house, the food I serve (or forget to serve!), or what I’m wearing.  I have to remind myself that the people who come into my life aren’t there to admire my beautiful bungalow, my Value City furniture, or my yoga pants.  They are here for fellowship, for sharing, for receiving.  I have come to learn that the only thing I need to “prepare” is my heart so that I’m fully available to practice being hospitable.  (P.S. a clean bathroom is usually the other thing I prepare!)  I will never be the one who has the best house, the best food, the best gadgets; and I’ll never be the one who is the funniest, the most put together, or even the calmest.  But I strive to be the one who listens, who cares, who laughs, and who cries with my friends, both old and new.  Practice, practice, practice….get over our fears/shortcomings/inadequacies.

We have gained ground this year in practicing hospitality.  We’ve made great friends, we’ve entertained fabulous conversations, we’ve spoken into many lives and had others return the favor.  I’m excited to continue practicing, even extending it past our front door, walking out into my neighborhood.  I have this joy and love for life inside of me, and I want to share it.  The only thing that stops me is….me.  I’m pretty sure that’s called pride.   I’m pretty sure there’s no room for that in my bungalow, clad with a husband, 4 children, a cat and friends.

Each one of us has something to share and a listening ear to offer.  No matter what your personality, your gifting, your schedule, or your situation, we are told to practice hospitality.  Now…who’s inviting us over for dinner to start practicing?





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