Anyone who’d ever stayed at Bonnie’s raved about her gift for hospitality. As I set my bags down, I quickly understood why.
The guest room pulled me in like a warm hug. The bed was piled with soft pillows and blankets. A basket of beautifully wrapped toiletries rested on the nightstand. Fluffy towels were folded neatly on the chair. There was even a wrapped gift waiting for me on the bed. She had literally thought of everything.
To a young woman who’d been raised in a family that barely made ends meet, this room felt like heaven. I grew up sharing everything with my siblings: a bedroom, a closet-sized bathroom and, though I hate to admit it, even a towel. We didn’t host dinner parties or have overnight guests. And I never stayed anywhere but Grandma’s, where I shared a lumpy mattress with my sister huddled under thin blankets to stay warm.
This was my very first stay in a luxurious guest room, and as I surveyed Bonnie’s careful attention to detail, I realized I had much to learn about hospitality. So I watched her carefully and took mental notes.
Bonnie had gourmet coffee waiting for me in the morning. She fixed elaborate meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No sooner would I sit down than she’d be right there offering a magazine, snack and choice of beverage. And I couldn’t help but marvel at how there was always a coaster and place to set your drink in her immaculate, well-appointed home.
As the weekend wore on, I came to understand two things. First, hospitality was definitely a gift. And second, I would never have it.
I walked away in awe at how special I’d felt in Bonnie’s home. I was treated like royalty and was eternally grateful for her generous hospitality. But I also felt discouraged. I had a limited income, a tiny home and had never been taught to treat guests in such a genteel manner. I determined that real hospitality was best left to all the Bonnies in the world who’d been specially tapped by God to practice it.
In other words, I believed a lie.
For years I felt less than when anyone visited my home. I’d apologize to friends when all I had to offer was coffee or water. I would apologize to overnight guests that I could only offer a couch and again when the spread of food I had to offer was subpar. And almost always, I’d punctuate my apology with the statement,“I don’t have the gift of hospitality,” hoping the guest would forgive my mediocrity in light of my obvious lack of gifting in this area.
That all changed when I started really digging into what the Bible teaches about hospitality. By the examples of hospitality being shown throughout the Old and New Testaments and by the clear directives laid out to practice it, I came to a life-changing realization: Hospitality is not a spiritual gift. It is a discipline.
Sure, some people are spectacular hosts. But all believers are called to use our homes for Kingdom purposes. And weaving hospitality into the fabric of our lives doesn’t require more than what we already have to offer.
Hospitality is coffee at your kitchen counter with a friend. It is welcoming others for a simple meal. It is sleepovers for our kids and small group and inviting new faces over to get to know them. It is simply offering whatever space you call home to friends and strangers alike for encouragement, refreshment, and rest.
Learning that real hospitality isn’t for a precious few was freeing. It reframed my memory of that time at Bonnie’s and what it taught me. It wasn’t the beautiful bedroom, the fancy soaps, and the endless drinks that made me feel like royalty. It was the generous spirit of my hostess. It was that she cared enough to welcome me in and spend time with me. It was her smile and her laughter and the way she made me feel.
All Bonnie did was offer her home and time for Kingdom purposes. That is the true gift of hospitality. And it’s a gift we all can give.