The doorbell rang, and I swung the door open wide to let our friends inside. I greeted them barefoot with a friendly smile, a warm hug, and a welcoming heart. We shared a meal together, and not once did I worry about the broken toilet in the guest bathroom, the wispy dog fur floating around on my wood floors, or the stack of mail on the kitchen counter. Now, this may not sound like a big deal to you, but for me, this shows I have come a long way in understanding the true meaning of hospitality.
The dictionary defines hospitality as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers,” but a long time ago, I discovered that hospitality means so much more than that.
How do we become hospitable people?
For years, I thought that in order to invite others over I had to have a perfect home and prepare a gourmet meal. I was nervous and anxious about asking people over for fear they would judge my cooking and cleaning skills. My parents didn’t often entertain, so I didn’t have much of a frame of reference for what hospitality looked like.
My husband was unsure as well as we both wondered, how do we become hospitable people? Our first step was to buy a huge wooden table and begin inviting others over. The Lord slowly but surely showed us how by teaching us to welcome people in and love others well.
This month marks twenty years in our current house. We scraped together every last penny to purchase the land and build this home. We prayed about the decision for quite some time and believed it was God’s plan for us. We stressed about all the costs involved, the incredible amount of decision-making that goes along with building a home, and how it would all come together. When we prayed though, we believed the Lord showed us that he would make a way because our home was to be used for ministry.
Romans 15:7 ESV says, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” We weren’t sure exactly what kind of ministry God would call us to in our home, but we wanted to be obedient and share what God had provided. So, we opened our home. We fumbled our way through for a long while, but as we pressed on, the Lord showered us with blessing after blessing.
More than a meal…
As God grew us and taught us, hospitality became more than just sharing a meal. We began to learn how to serve others as Jesus would with a “come as you are” mentality. God taught us about how to love people well, how to be comfortable with drop-ins, and in many ways, we learned to become better listeners.
We want to provide an environment of warmth and coziness, of safety and assurance, and of encouragement. We want to bless and be a blessing. We desire to truly know people- to understand their joys, struggles, desires, needs, and hopes.
We had no idea…
Twenty years ago, when we took our first steps toward learning hospitality, we had no way of knowing how God would ultimately bless us as we opened our home. I had no idea hospitality would come to look like slumber parties, backyard barbecues, Bible studies in our living room, bridal and baby showers, book club meetings, movie nights, pastor’s wives’ brunches, and New Year’s Eve game nights. We never anticipated our home becoming a refuge for lonely teenagers, that our holiday meals would be shared with friends who had no family nearby, or that our library would become a place to offer hope for marriages in crisis.
We never expected our back lawn would become the spot where two different couples would join in holy matrimony or that it would become a place to throw down a blanket to sit in the sunshine and mentor a young woman. I never dreamed we would invite a stranger to live with us. Our kitchen became the place for monthly youth group gatherings and the classroom where I homeschooled my three children and three others. These days, our house is used weekly for a home church service.
How do I prepare?
So do I tidy up the house before people come over? The answer is yes. I always make sure the bathroom is wiped down (or at least the mirror is clean), the table is cleared off, leaves are blown off the patio if we’re eating outside, and often, I light a scented candle, so the house smells fresh.
I don’t clean the house from top to bottom before people arrive, though, because we mainly stay in one or two areas anyway. People are not coming to inspect my baseboards or looking to see when I last dusted my light fixtures. Instead, they’re coming because they desire fellowship, a listening ear, a shared meal, or connection. Our homes don’t need to be perfect to be joyful.
Hospitality is not only opening our homes, but also opening our hearts. As we grow in our walk with him, God grows a love for hospitality within us. He teaches us through his word and by his own example how to love others unconditionally, how to carry each other’s burdens, and to pray for one another. Because of Christ, we learn to serve, show kindness and generosity, and be compassionate.
We are to welcome others in, no matter the state of our homes, because Christ has welcomed us. We only need to say yes, Lord. Swing wide that door of yours and let them in! Your life will be richer for it.