I don’t remember when I decided that red was my favorite color, or what set of circumstances made me realize that I had an eye for detail, a creative mind, and just enough talent to love the arts (All of them. Music, photography, literature – I’m an equal opportunity lover of creativity.). Many of the little details that make me who I am happened without much thought. But I remember the day I told myself I was done being shy.
- The shy, reserved girls with their noses in books were never the ones invited to the fun events.
- The introverts were never chosen to lead anything.
- The quiet ones missed out on opportunities.
At least that’s the way it appeared to my junior high mind, and I was tired of being lonely and quiet. So I made up my mind to stop being shy – I would look people in the eye when I spoke. I would walk with confidence. I would be outgoing and make friends easily and be a leader.
I laugh a little when I think about it. Now that I’ve had the chance to settle in to this personality that God has given me, I can appreciate the introverted side of my spirit – but also the determined, focused side that had me believing all those years ago that I could force myself to become extroverted. Part of my plan worked, I suppose. I now look people in the eye when we speak and can convince myself I’m more confident than I feel. But I’m exhausted, not energized, by being around a lot of people, I’m easily overcome by sensory overload in new places, and yet – God keeps calling me to community.
Do you want to know which spiritual gift I secretly find most terrifying when it comes to community? Hospitality.
In my mind it means throwing lavishly decorated outdoor parties in the summer, with a perfectly manicured lawn, and a house full of people so enamored by our inviting atmosphere that they laugh and talk and stay until nightfall. After which we toast marshmallows and someone plays guitar and we watch fireflies.
The reality? Right now our backyard is a bit of a mud pit and when we have friends over for the oh-so-glamorous hot dogs on the grill, we find ourselves a little lost for conversation and counting down until we can use the excuse of work or bed time to head home. Not because we don’t love our friends, but because I’m not the host I think I need to be, and that expectation weighs so heavy that our lighthearted conversations are crushed.
This summer I’m going to try to combine my creativity with love of community – it’s an introvert’s plan for hospitality.
Start Small – we are more comfortable hosting three friends than 30, so instead of setting ourselves up for stress and feeling like we failed, we’ll create small moments to build confidence and make memories.
Ask For Help – I have friends who are extroverts and love starting conversations with people, so I’ll make sure I have at least one person who can get the chatter going while I finish up the food. Sometimes hospitality is achieved simply by inviting your guests to serve in their strengths!
Meet Somewhere Fun – the definition of hospitality is “the friendly reception and treatment of guests.” Sure, it’s nice when it’s at your home, but if we feel less pressure planning a trip to a baseball game or the local aquarium with a few friends, we’ll do that!
Do Something Fun – host a “dessert only” potluck, plan a craft party to make the strangest thing you can find on Pinterest, get together with your supplies of notecards and spend an hour writing snail mail encouragement to send to friends, or plan a “progressive” meal with several friends and travel to a different house for each course of the meal – thinking outside the box can make it fun for everyone (and memorable!).
Practice – there are still times when I revert back to those junior high days and have to tell myself not to be shy. So I’ll practice my conversational skills over coffee with one or two friends to build up my confidence!
At the end of the day, hospitality is about being friendly and treating one another with generosity:
Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and He’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. (1 Peter 4:11, MSG)
This is just the start of my list – I’d love to know your ideas!