I had a Martha Stewart vision of what hospitality would look like when I first wanted to open up my home to others. I thought, It’ll be all perfectly roasted chicken, china glistening on the table, candles flickering in the living room. Now, when a knock comes to the door, I’m mostly just happy if the toilet is decently clean.
I stepped into 2018 with rose-colored glasses and a sincere desire to be hospitable. I prayed for God to give me opportunities to practice hospitality though the adage “Be careful what you pray for” rang in the back of my head.
It only took God a few days to respond.
Knocks came at the door, and they haven’t stopped since nor do they show any signs of slowing down. I had no idea how many people needed a listening ear, a couch to sit on for a bit, a friend to stay on the phone with for an hour or two. When I first prayed for God to bring opportunities, I still just had visions of that Instagrammable roast chicken and confident ideas of how this new endeavor would first perfectly into my schedule.
Hospitality is not at all what I had imagined it would be. It’s not the kind of table-perfectly-set, night-of-fun-activities kind of pouring out of myself I thought it would be. Rather it’s hours of listening, holding hands, wiping tears, and praying together. And when the door closes, it’s a whole lot of falling back on my knees and praying for my loved ones to find peace and clarity and wisdom.
The people who cross over my doorstep hardly care that the biscuits are a little denser than desired or that the sink is full of dishes or that I have yet to serve roast chicken. They don’t notice the dust that’s piled up on the shelves or my lack of housekeeping. They are neither wowed nor disappointed with my intention to impress them with my sparkling hospitality tricks because that’s not why they enter into my home.
They come to be present, to gather together in communion by breaking bread and sharing real life — the hard and the gritty.
I’m settling into this new definition of hospitality. I’m learning that building a hospitable home counts more when I’m present with the people who come through my doors than when I spend an extra half-hour arranging scones on a platter.
Hospitality is beautiful, not because of the scones but because we open up and give of ourselves. Hospitality was never meant to be a tool used to elevate ourselves or our hosting abilities. Rather it was meant to be a way to offer our ears, our shoulders, our faith, and our love to those who need it. In that way, the pressure of being a hospitable person is alleviated because there is nothing simpler than opening the door, passing the bread, and simply listening.
So even with our dusty shelves and questionable toilets, we can commit to making our homes a soft place to land. We can commit to trading in our pretty concepts of hospitality for messy gatherings of honest lives. Because that, in all of its glorious simplicity, is true hospitality.