Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rethinking Hospitality

At about 8:30 last night, my heart jumped with a sudden sense of panic that I'd forgotten to post on my blog. Instead of wallowing in self-loathing for flaking out, I accepted that I had a legitimate reason for forgetting, and simply put it off for a day, so here I am.

Yesterday, I started a four-week class on Christian hospitality titled "A Meal with Jesus." I must confess that I wondered if some would consider the class a strange choice for me right now. I knew I wanted to take it, but my current living situation doesn't make it possible for me to invite friends over for dinner or extend a "My door is open to you any time" invitation. But the desire to take it never lifted, so I decided it must be for me after all. Since a friend of mine was teaching it, I knew ahead of time that we would be focusing on letting go of the pressure-filled idea of entertaining and learn what it meant to welcome and serve people like Jesus did. Maybe this time of transition when life feels the furthest from typical would be a good time to consider how I might extend Christ-like hospitality on an everyday basis and plan ahead for what I want my home to look like in the future. Within the first fifteen minutes of the class, I knew I was in the right place.

The first lesson basically focused on how we welcome people, and the times when someone else's willingness to extend hospitality to us--not by doing anything elaborate but by just being kind--has made a huge difference.

As I listened and shared my own experiences, the side of me that loves people, loved to cook and bake, and never wants anyone to feel unwelcome woke up. Memories of the many times when a friend's hospitality turned my day around stirred my desire to do the same for others, and it felt so incredibly refreshing to know that doing this didn't need to include a big production. Even today, as I reflect on what I learned and think of times when friends showed me hospitality, I realize that it doesn't take much at all.

I think of the friend in Reno who, when she heard my teary voice over the phone after I'd dropped my son off at school, said, "Come on over." When she opened the door, her hair was often still wet from her morning shower, but she invited me in, served me a cup of coffee, took me out to the back deck if the weather was nice, and just chatted with me for a while. Sometimes I spent the entire time unloading, but more often that part of the conversation lasted only a few minutes and we moved on to other topics. I always went home feeling better, not because she served me home-baked muffins on a fancy plate, but because she invited me in to relax and share what prompted me to call her.

I think of the couple who invited my youngest son over for Easter. She loves to cook and entertain, so everything was beautiful and perfect, but that didn't mean nearly as much to me as her desire to have us in her home so we wouldn't spend an already difficult holiday alone.

Finally, I thought of the sweet friend who taught the class and responded to an obvious need to talk with, "Let's go get coffee right now." No matter what she had on her agenda for the afternoon, or how tired she might have been after planning and teaching, she practiced what we'd discussed that morning by simply being available.

So for this week, my goal is to be like these people--to love in a biblical way by being welcoming, sensitive to needs, and willing to set something aside long enough to show someone that they are worth my time.

When has someone shown you this type of hospitality? How might God want you to do the same for others? 

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