Embracing Hospitality in a Messy Season of Life
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Embracing a summer of hospitality kept ringing in my ears this Spring. I knew God was prompting me by placing this on my heart. When I finally slowed down long enough to listen and be humbled, I began to ask myself some questions.
When was the last time I invited someone into my home for a meal and conversation?
What have I most recently taught my children about hospitality?
When was the last time I was intentional about opening my life to someone new or someone in need?
The answers didn’t really please me. Worse yet, the answers also didn’t please God.
Defining Biblical Hospitality
Before I go forward, I think it is important to briefly share my view of what hospitality includes.
For me, hospitality means inviting others in to your home for a shared meal and connection. It also means extending that care outside of your home by taking meals to fellow Christians and neighbors in need.
And, hospitality means helping to ensure that basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing are covered for those in your community.
A key component for me in regards to hospitality is the care and connection you are providing.
1 Peter 4:10-11 tells us “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” To be clear, I think we all can offer hospitality to others. It will look different for everyone. Yet, it is something we are all called to do in our own way in God’s name.
I also believe it is important to look at examples of hospitality in the bible. Here are just a few to get you started:
- Abraham’s servant is welcomed in Rebekah’s home (Genesis 24:22-25)
- Lot entertains the visitors sent by God (Genesis 19:1-3)
- Widow cares for Elijah despite her poverty (1 Kings 17:7-16)
- The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
- At the home of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)
- At the house of Zacchaueus (Luke 19:5-10)
Past Calls to Hospitality
Our children were 10, 7 and almost 4 when my husband and I moved to Kansas with our family. We moved into a newer home that was set up nicely to entertain. The neighborhood association had a swimming pool and park. And, our nights were not terribly crazy with only 2 involved in sports.
Our set up was ideal to begin inviting over homeschool friends, hosting foreign soccer coaches and offering monthly meals to college students from our church. We provided clothing for families who welcomed children in from the foster care system. So often these children arrived with only the clothes upon their backs. Also, we provided meals to friends and church members who had surgeries, welcomed in a new baby or were simply in need. For 4 years, we filled our home and lives with hospitality.
Hebrews 13:16 encouraged us “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” We didn’t serve others to improve our image or to get something in return. No, we served because God desired that of us. The added bonus, we found great joy in serving others.
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A Shift In Our Lives and In Hospitality
Following a move in 2014, we found ourselves living in Iowa in an old 1890’s farmhouse. Our vision was to remodel the farmhouse. And, 4 1⁄2 years later we are still remodeling that farmhouse. In this same time frame, we began to foster our 10 month-old nephew who had attachment issues. It was during this time, that our love and what we perceived as our ability to offer hospitality began to leave our home.
Looking back over these past years, I can tell you there are 3 stumbling blocks we are working to overcome in order to turn our summer into a summer of hospitality. These include: opening our home in its imperfect state, offering hospitality even in our brokenness, and excusing ourselves from serving because we are too busy.
Common obstacles to embracing hospitality
Opening Our Imperfect Home
As I have learned, my home is going to be a work in progress for several more years. As we make way from room to room, we are creating memories and stories to tell. If I am being perfectly honest, I have allowed pride to take hold of my heart and limit whom I have invited into my home.
It’s not showcase ready, but it is clean (most days) and offers wonderful shelter. More importantly, it is filled with love and the spirit of the Lord. A sense of love and feeling of God’s presence, that is what should greet people upon arriving. Those that are being loved on and cared for are not sitting there judging the remodel. They are hoping for connection. And, that we can give.
I learned that I can put the needs of others ahead of my own pride, my own insecurities. I don’t live in the pages of a perfect home magazine. I live the reality of life with 3 kids, 2 dogs and a husband that works outside of the home before working in the evening on our house. I’m reminded of something our pastor from New Mexico said in multiple sermons, “You can’t take it with you. But what you do with your blessings on Earth is what defines you.”
Offering Hospitality in My Brokenness
Another lesson I learned these past several years is how to offer hospitality in my brokenness. You see, I have said goodbye to my foster son, lost my father-in-law, sent a son off to college and lost my dad to cancer all within in 6 months. That season broke me and I withdrew. I took several months to grieve. Interestingly enough, God offered me ways to serve others and offer hospitality in my time of grief.
Had I looked away from these opportunities, I would have missed the chance to bless others and heal as well. Instead I slowly stepped back into life. I took meals to several friends who had surgery. I sent cards to a couple friends who had lost loved ones. I made Christmas ornaments to honor my father-in-law and my dad for our families.
What I realized during these times of hospitality is that people are not expecting me to do something sensational. They are just hoping someone will show up and care. They are wanting to be seen and heard and loved. And, that I could do, even when I was broken because I knew their need was as important as my heartache.
Excusing Our Lack of Hospitality Because of Being Too Busy
At one point, we had 3 kids playing competitive soccer and a toddler with attachment and sensory issues. We were always on the go. We were dividing and conquering our evening and weekends to always be present for our kids. And, when we did have time off, we spent it at home. Looking back now, I realize that I always found it acceptable to say we couldn’t connect with others in our home because we were too busy.
The truth, the reality is that hospitality isn’t always convenient or comfortable. When we offer others a chance to come in our home and sit and be served, we are saying they are important. When we take food or clothes to others, we are saying your need matters more than my down time.
Proverbs 31:20 shines light on this truth. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
This verse doesn’t say when she has time, she gives. No, we are to open our hearts and our lives when we encounter those in need. If we wait until the timing is perfect in our lives to provide hospitality, it will never happen. Hospitality requires some sacrifice, planning, and just a commitment to loving others as God loves you.
A Summer of Hospitality
As I allowed God to work in my heart and to humble me, I realized how much I have missed being actively focused on hospitality. This summer, I am making a commitment to weekly serving others out of love and compassion. How am I going to do this?
- Weekly handwritten note to a widow, college student in our church
- Monthly bar-b-cue with friends at our house
- Weekly invitation to children’s friends to come swim at our house
- Monthly shopping trip to help fill the foster closet in our community
These things don’t require massive planning or money. They can be fit into our summer and into our evenings. You see, the goal of hospitality is about showing God’s love. With that as our motivation, all of these things can be done together and with ease. I want my children to look back and see that caring for others is natural and should be a part of our lives. And, I want them to see hospitality is part of walking with Jesus.
Author, Speaker, Blogger at www.jesusismyhashtag.com and www.remodelingourlives.com