In last week’s instalment, we learned that there’s a big difference between entertainment and hospitality:
- Entertainment excludes, hospitality includes.
- Entertainment is a performance, hospitality is a service.
- Entertainment draws lines between host and guest, hospitality blurs the lines.
- Entertainment is sporadic, hospitality is a way of life.
- Entertainment is reciprocated, hospitality is generous.
If you’re anything like me, you were nodding away and cheering last week’s article. (If you missed it, you can catch it here.) Minutes later I was worrying whether the Christmas table will be ‘Christmassy enough’ and snapping at the kids for smashing a vase I’d placed in a ridiculous position to try to posh-up the hallway (shamefully, true!).
So I’ve been thinking, why is it that we agree with the idea of hospitality but rarely live it out? What’s holding you back? Here are three possible reasons (and all of them resonate with me):
1) Living in fear of what others think of us
There’s no getting away from it, we know people might judge our roast potatoes and our curtains. It’s a regular thing now to scroll through Instagram and see the perfect roast potato and beautiful interior design. It inspires us but also makes us feel a little inferior. But let’s look at things from the point of view of your friend walking through the door. She’s seeing the beauty of your actions, the generosity of your invitation – maybe few are brave enough to invite her and her family over as the number of kids she has puts people off… and so on.
On a practical note, don’t forget the visits that went well. Stop writing your lists and ideas on scraps of paper. Have you heard of bullet journalling? I’m not sure I’ll get into it fully, but its all about keeping a little book full of lists – good ideas, easy recipes, made-up recipes you’ll forget about, stuff you need to get done in the house and at work. Your creative genius needs to be saved for next time, not thrown out!
2) Living in panic about the state of our houses
This friend. She’ll be relieved to see you live in an element of squalor just as she does. We’re all just a decaying bit of leftovers away from maggots in the black bin. And you know what else? It’s also only recently I’ve learned that you don’t have to agree on, or even like each other’s tastes! One of my friends has quite strong opinions and doesn’t feel the need to pretend she likes something that she doesn’t. I’ve come to realise that that totally OK! Being honest is refreshing, let’s be confident in our own choices, our own muddled cleaning strategies, our own lives. HOSPITALITY IS NOT A PERFORMANCE!
However uncomfortable it makes us feel, a mess is necessary to make us feel welcome in each other’s homes. I’m intimidated by gleaming floors and zero clutter. I’m honoured when a friend hasn’t hoovered or put the breakfast dishes away – it shows she’s comfortable with me. And do you know how we can encourage this state of mind? By encouraging and praising each other for the service we do. HOSPITALITY IS A SERVICE. Let’s be mindful about making encouraging statements about the activity you see your friend involved in. By all means, compliment her on her new carpet or her crockery but tell her how much you appreciate what she’s doing with the Youth at church, or that you’ve noticed that she’s taking the time to help the new girl settle in at work. Tell her how much you’ve appreciated something she’s doing. And for a friend struggling to cope with the pressures of family life, how much nicer is it for her to come and see the kid’s shoes clumsily piled in one corner and their pants on the radiators? Normal stuff.
Until we invested in a new one a couple of years ago, I did pride myself on my kitchen table. The varnish had worn off and the cracks were sealed by years of in-ground Weetabix glue. That piece of furniture became a symbol for my ‘doing the best you can in the season you’re in’ philosophy and for the other mums in the same endless feeding-cleaning-wiping routine, I think it was a pretty good bonding tool (even if they did go home with sticky elbows!).
3) We’ve got the wrong end of the stick about what people need to see about us
Maybe we’re thinking, ‘when I’m less busy at work’ or ‘ when we’ve renovated the downstairs toilet’ or ‘when I’ve learned to cook something impressive’. But all this fussing won’t get us anywhere with the people we’re meeting right now. We’ve got to be OK with less than perfect.
Our small group has just done a study of beauty. We thought we knew the answers: God sees the inside, we’re all beautiful, beauty is only skin-deep, etc. But what really stood out to me this time was that the key to being beautiful lies not only in our character but also in our actions.
Here’s the character bit:
You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:4
Here’s the action bit:
For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. 1 Timothy 2:10
Good deeds enhance and draw attention to true beauty, the ‘gentle and quiet spirit’ that is of worth in God’s sight. It is when we trust and hope in God that we can give up serving our own interests and passions, and instead devote ourselves to the good of others. So good deeds highlight the very different way in which Christians are able to live as they respond to God’s grace.*
So it less of ‘because you’re worth it’ and more of ‘because they’re worth it’.
Let’s just make hospitality a way of life… one step at a time
I could go on with excuses about why hospitality is hard. But let’s make a pact to embrace it this season. Take it a step at a time: just one open house, impulsive invite, visit to a lonely neighbour. We’re going to need a few nudges in the right direction from trusted friends so,
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another. Hebrews 24-25
- What is putting you off living out true hospitality?
- What can you do to cope with the vulnerability you will face by opening up your imperfect home?
*The Good Book Guide to Biblical Womanhood, by Sarah Collins, p.78