I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. “I have some extra chicken in the slow cooker if you’d like to join us for lunch.” There I was talking to this couple I had just met, visitors to our church, and I was inviting them over for lunch. The invitation itself was only partially shocking, the rest was the knowledge that my house was a wreck and I had just invited complete strangers into it.
Hospitality can be a scary word for some. But for me, (once I got over being self-conscience over the state of my home) it brings a feeling of excitement. I love having people in our home, maybe because I recently had to go two months without having that option that makes it that much more enjoyable, but whatever the reason, Paul and I both are very strong advocates when it comes to practicing hospitality.
What is Hospitality?
I realized I didn’t actually define hospitality in this post so I’ll do that now.
When I googled hospitality, I found a list of about 15 different synonyms for it. Friendliness, helpfulness, warmth, kindness, and generosity were among the listed words. But the one that stood out to me most was welcome. Hospitality is the practice of welcoming people, whether that’s into your home, your circle of friends or just you life in general.
So now the question: what is spontaneous hospitality? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like, spontaneously reaching out and welcoming people into your life. Think of it like random acts of kindness.
My Preferred Method
I’m sure that the idea of spontaneously inviting people into your home sounds terrifying to some. That’s probably a natural response. But this kind of hospitality is honestly my favorite form for several reasons.
There is less stress. I’m sure most of us know all too well the anxiety that comes with having company over, especially if you don’t know them well and they are coming over for the first time. We don’t want them to walk into our homes thinking we’re complete slobs so we scramble and stress over every little thing that might be even remotely out of place (or maybe this is just me). But with spontaneous hospitality, there’s no time for that. You just have to be okayy with a quick straighten or pick up job.
It’s more relaxed. Have you ever walked into someone’s pristine home and immediately started imagining all the things your kids can break? From the time I walk in the door to homes like that, I’m uptight and on edge, ready to jump the minute I see my boys start to reach for anything remotely breakable . But I’ve found that when I see crumbs on the floor at a friend’s house, I’m less likely to worry about them mess my family may cause. If I’m given enough time, I usually end up shooting for a super pristine appearance. Which means I may be setting another parent up for the “on- edge” feeling I’ve described. Spontaneous hospitality removes the time I have to clean and allows me to keep the atmosphere more relaxed.
It’s more authentic. While I love the idea of people thinking I have everything put together all the time, I don’t want them to give a false impression. More often than not there are crumbs on the couch and floor, dishes in the sink and toys scattered throughout the house. But this is real life. When welcoming families into our home and life I want them to see that we are normal humans who live normal lives.
You can do this
I was asked this past week if I had any pointers for practicing hospitality. The answer: Just do it. Don’t worry about whether or not you have a gourmet meal to prepare or if you have dishes in the sink. Don’t stress about the sheet of dust you see on the mantle, especially if your guests are short because they won’t see it anyway. When we have invited people over out of the blue, I have had no time to think about the state of my house. In fact, most of the times we’ve done this, I’ve had dishes spilling out of my kitchen sink. One time I even had to dash to the boys’ bathroom to clean up all the clothes from the night before. The only thing needed is enough food and a warm and welcoming environment. Keep in mind that the people coming are human too. They likely understand what a home with kids looks like, they probably have their own messes they need to deal with at some point. They know what a lived in house looks like.
Remember hospitality is about people, not possessions. It’s about encouraging your church family in the Lord. It’s about pointing unbelievers to His grace. If there is a mess, use that as a Gospel opportunity. Remember that you too were a dirty dish and God washed you and is now using you to feed and care for his children on both a physical and spiritual need.