‘Tis the season to deck the halls and open your doors to family and friends both near and far. Or crawl in a hole and hide until it’s all over.
I confess, hospitality isn’t my gift – not in the spiritual or the practical sense. For years, I hid behind a list of excuses and left the party planning to more capable people. Like my sister-in-law who has the knack for matching paper plates and napkins and invitations to the proper shade of red and never, ever forgets important things like ice. Maybe I avoided it because I’m too much of a perfectionist. Maybe I avoided it because I was afraid I wasn’t good enough. Maybe I avoided it out of fear what other people would think of me and my house. Most likely it was all of the above.
I had no idea what I was missing. When I let go of what I thought hospitality meant and just opened my home in the midst of the mess and chaos and imperfection, I discovered something completely different and wonderful.
My family and I recently spent part of the holiday season with my parents in their home. My mom has a wonderful spirit of hospitality. She always fixes breakfast pizza because she knows it’s Kedron’s favorite. She fills the pantry and freezer with the grandkids’ favorites (that she knows I deprive them of)—Popsicles, fish sticks, and microwavable macaroni and cheese. Everything she does while we visit is out of concern for what we love and how she can best meet our needs.
While fixing plates of goodies to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I asked my mom for a plate for the cheese ball. When she couldn’t find one, she lamented, “I’m just not very good at entertaining.”
I was writing this chapter at the time, and that’s when I realized how our vernacular often exchanges the terms hospitality and entertaining, mistaking them as equals. We have allowed some of the world’s definition of what good entertaining is to creep into our definition of what we think God calls hospitality. The mixing of the two creates a standard that we cannot attain, nor should we feel the pressure to try.
Entertaining puts on a show with the hostess as the star, showcasing her home, her possessions, her cooking (or ability to hire a caterer), with the intention of impressing. It has no room for error and absolutely everything must be perfect. Entertaining is primarily concerned about reputation, protection of status, and return of the favor. It has no room at the table for the least of our society and often uses people to climb another rung on a social ladder. The entertaining hostess wants to be seen for how put together she is, with the illusion that this is the way life always is.
Hospitality is focused solely on the guest’s needs and comfort. The hospitality hostess desires to express how much she values and loves her guests, thereby showing how much God loves and values them.
It’s not that we don’t need to plan ahead, clean to the best of our ability, or do our best to make a pleasing meal. Paul reminds us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV). These preparations now have a holy element. As we prepare to welcome others into our homes and our lives, we are welcoming Jesus Himself. We offer up a sacrifice—of time, resources, and privacy. In all of this, we seek to bring glory to God, not to honor ourselves.
Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? pp 95-96
‘Tis the season, and I’m still trembling. But I’m opening my doors anyway. I’m taking risks, inviting new people in, and hoping they’ll forgive me when I run out of something important like napkins or plates (pretty please excuse my forgetfulness?).
But hospitality isn’t about me. It’s about loving on you. And I’m more than happy to do that. With or without matching napkins and plates.
Whenever I start feeling the pressure to perform, I know I’ve gotten off base and turned the event into being about me instead of being about love.