I was simultaneously excited and terrified. I was excited to decorate, to make it our own, and to have a sense of permanency after moving seven times in the last five years. But I was terrified of the responsibility – the financial burden, the maintenance. Mostly though, the expectation of playing hostess in our new space turned this introvert into a hyperventilating mess.
I felt pressure to host well – to provide for guests, entertain them, feed them, all while ensuring comfort and enjoyment. This pressure – this fear of not hosting well – was crippling. For the first few months of home ownership, we barely had anyone over. I felt like a failure and a hypocrite, and decided that
hospitality was just not my gift.
But God began to work in this area of my life. A few months after we became home owners I attended a women’s retreat, and during one of the workshops, I learned about the monastic definition and practice of hospitality. This newfound knowledge literally changed not only the way I host, but more importantly, the way I live. I am positive that while I might not be a natural-born hostess, hospitality is a big part of my call as a follower of Jesus.
In the monastic tradition, when a nun hears a knock on her door, she doesn’t become frantic making sure everything is presentable. She doesn't rush to get in a couple last minute spurts of Febreeze, or apologize if she can’t provide for her guest the way she wishes she could. She simply opens the door and looks for Christ in her visitor. She knows that anyone who walks through her door
could very well be ushering in the presence of Christ.
That is enough.
And that is a beautiful thing.
This definition is needed and I love it for two reasons.
First, it takes the burden off of us. The pressure to appear put-together is lifted because our focus is not on ourselves. We simply look for Christ. We believe Jesus in Matthew 25 when He says that whatever we do for even the least of these, we do for Him. With that in mind, our focus shifts. Everything else that we tend to worry about pales in comparison and fades away.
Second, it attributes worth, dignity, and value to the guest, visitor or stranger. With this perspective, hospitality is much bigger than hosting; it becomes a way of life. Hospitality is not confined by the walls of our homes or the boundaries of our comfort zones. It is something we take with us, something we are called to live out each and every day of our lives.
It doesn't require an immaculate home or even a well-cooked meal.
It only requires a posture of humility, willingness, and welcome.
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”
To entertain angels is a gift and opportunity - one I don’t want to miss - and it is attainable when we choose to practice humble hospitality. It is much easier to stick with the blinders that dull our witness and soften our call; but living and leading with hospitality powerfully enables us to see others the way God does. It’s a perspective that makes a difference, propelling us into meaningful Kingdom work.
Hospitality notices the unnoticed, makes space for the marginalized, and seeks to find common ground instead of defaulting to what’s different.
I wonder what would happen if we chose to live with a spirit of hospitality. If we searched for the presence of Christ and the image of God in whoever crosses our path or walks through the doors of our life - in the members of our family, our neighborhood, our workplace, our community, and our world. And I wonder what the impact might be if we then chose to treat those people accordingly. Despite their status or appearance. Despite how different than us they might be. May we be bold enough to carry this kind of hospitality into our little slice of the world, trusting the Kingdom-sized difference it could make.