I love to have guests, but I’m not much of an inviter.
Even when my heart is willing, acute self-consciousness creeps in and overwhelms my good intentions.
My nearsighted housekeeping, worn out furniture, fear of saying the wrong thing, and decidedly awkward inability to carry on a casual conversation stops me if I even have a minute to think about being a hostess.
I want to invite, I really do. I know how loved I feel when I’m invited. I watch friends do it with ease and grace and admire them for their ability to fold people into their lives.
But I’m not wired that way. And I feel terrible about it. (Isn’t hospitality supposed to be a characteristic of a Christian?)
I know hospitality is not about me. So why is it so hard?
True hospitality is more than hosting a game night, a book club, or even a dinner with friends — though those are all wonderful things. True hospitality is about welcoming strangers, sheltering wanderers, feeding someone who is hungry, and answering a cry for help.
True hospitality is about meeting a need — not entertaining.
Twelve years ago, we moved to a new state for grad school, and it took months to find work. Friends of my husband offered for us to stay in their home.
We were a family of six including a newborn, and they were a family of five including a baby. They didn’t know me or our kids, but for three months they shared their home, their food, and every day of their lives with us.
While we were house hunting, we had an accident that totaled our van. The crash happened not far from the home of a pastor who’d hosted my husband overnight many months before when he’d visited the school.
The pastor’s family picked us up, fed us dinner, and loaned us the church van for weeks until we could get another. So much generosity — and they didn’t even know us!
True hospitality is about serving. And that’s good news if you’re like me. I’m far more comfortable around people if I have a job to do. Responding to a need isn’t nearly as paralyzing for me as hosting a home-shopping party!
Lately, I’ve been telling myself to quit worrying so much about my failures to entertain and instead watch more carefully for the needs I can meet.
So when the opportunity came up to make and serve dinner in a shelter in my community, I knew I needed to go.
The night was freezing, but the warmth and aroma from the ovens filled the dining room. When they gathered for dinner, they were delighted by the meal we had made from scratch.
As an older man passed through the line, he stopped and spoke earnestly, “It’s been a very long time since I had a homemade chicken pot pie. Thank you!”
True hospitality isn’t always about something homemade, but it is always about what the other person needs. I wonder how often I miss that when I confuse hospitality with entertaining . . .
Maybe that’s why Peter prefaces his admonition to offer hospitality with “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Because sometimes the need is simply to be invited.
And the grateful guest is not going to notice or care about the multitude of sins I shove vigorously into the closet before I open the door.
They will feel loved just because I ask them to come in.
Related: Need a tender reminder that we need each other? Wear this beautiful ((together)) ~ necklace by Lisa Leonard to encourage your heart and inspire those around you.