In the past two years, I’ve moved quite a bit—10 times to be exact, 11 if you count my move this past weekend. Three states, seven families and nine internships and jobs later, I’ve become a moving expert. Every four months or so, I load up my boxes and books into my paint-chipped ‘03 suburban that takes about as much oil as it does gas. I take a deep breath and crank the ignition, hoping it will hold out for one last move.
Throughout this extended two-year adventure, I have been graciously welcomed into homes, but more importantly, into families. I have lived with many and shared meals with many more.
Each time I came needing a place to live or food to eat, but left with so much more than a roof over my head or a full stomach. I left feeling loved by my Savior and seen by my brothers and sisters. And I have learned that hosting and being hosted has eternal value because the people who gather in these homes have eternal value.
Christian hospitality may not look like the perfect pictures in the magazines, but I’m grateful these families and friends have invited me into the mess—the beautiful mess of loving deeply because of the one of who first loved them (1 John 4:19).
The call to hospitality
I used to see hospitality as a gift that few had, with my mom being the foremost example. My mom is the hostess of all hostesses—she can make a feast out of fixin's and make a home full of screaming boys feel like a safe haven. From the shelves stacked with disarrayed books to the fresh scent of lavender soap, she knows how to make a house a home. The window decorations, paint color, mantle dressings and picture frames make our home special, but as I look back, that’s not what made my mom a great host. It’s what made her a good interior decorator. What made her a good host was that everyone knew if they came to our home, our door was wide open, always figuratively, often literally.
Hospitality isn’t a responsibility only given to women and moms. It’s given to Christians of all stages.
The sink might not be be clean, the floors unswept and the laundry unfolded, but she will feed you. While it might be a crockpot dinner or cold pizza, you’ll never leave hungry. She’ll sit, listen and weep with you over a tough day, or a tough year. She’ll laugh with you, plan with you and cheer for you. She’ll tell you often that she doesn’t know what she’s doing, but nevertheless, invite you to learn from her mistakes. Most importantly, she’ll open up her marked up and worn Bible and speak the words of Scripture into the deepest parts of your soul, even if you don’t personally know the Jesus she serves. My mom became a good host because she regularly practiced hospitality, especially when it was inconvenient.
Hospitality isn’t a responsibility only given to women and moms. It’s given to men (Prov. 31:20; 1 Tim. 3:2) and Christians of all stages, as well. Thankfully, my father graciously supports my mom in this ministry—their ministry—and allows my mom to serve best when she knows he has his hands and his heart open too.
We can’t wait until we have everything perfect to invite friends and strangers into our homes. While hospitality might look different in each season, we shouldn’t wait until the kids are out of diapers, the refrigerator is stocked with food or until we ladies have on a full face of makeup. We should just serve, in whatever capacity we can.
Peter tells us to, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). The verses before and after this verse are even more instructing:
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. . . . As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 4:8, 10)
Peter shows that hosting and being hosted displays the gospel because God is glorified through our service to others.
The simplicity of hospitality
Some of my favorite times are sitting around the table or even standing at the countertop, grabbing a quick meal of leftovers before scattering off to the next activity. The short “hellos” and even shorter “goodbyes” in the throes of daily life are sweet because of the people I’m coming and going with.
Hospitality can be that simple. It may be as easy as inviting a college student to help you cook dinner while the kids are bathing. Or, it may look like hosting lunch after church on Sunday. My favorite tradition growing up was designating one night out of the week where members of my family invited someone to share a meal with us.
When summer comes to a close in a few short months, I’ll pack up my boxes once again, load them into my still-surviving suburban and drive to another place I’ll call home. In the meantime, I will spend my afternoons and evenings sitting around different kitchen tables across the city, talking about things of God as I watch the gospel being lived out in front of me. The people I’ve seen open their homes are usually the ones who are least expected to—the ones with five or more children, busy jobs, sick family members or hardly an extra room or dining room chair to spare. But I’m thankful these things never stopped them.
Stepping on LEGOs, washing marker-stained fingers, cleaning up messes, sifting through mismatched socks—I’ve been a part of everyday, and sometimes inconvenient aspects of people’s lives, all because someone invited me in (Rom. 12:13). I’ve seen the struggle, and I’ve seen the joy—and I’m different because of it. Most of all, I dream of the day I have a place of my own—and then a family of my own—to open to whoever would like to come on in and witness the everyday realities of life as a Christian.