By Randi Peck
The other day, I volunteered to host a shower at my house. What should have gone through my head: Oh, yay! What a lovely opportunity to bless this woman and the ladies she loves. *end thought*
What did go through my head:
Oh, yay! How much time does that give me to get my house put together? I need to look up Pinterest fall decorating ideas. And I’m going to have to rent that carpet steamer- these floors are filthy! Oh my, the couch… What will they think of the quilt replacing our couch cover? Our family pictures are so outdated, I wonder if I can refill my frames… *and on and on the self-absorbed, prideful, and insecure thoughts went*
Somewhere between worrying about the amount of seating I had and the empty space on my bathroom wall, I began to realize how off my idea of hospitality was. Oh Lord, I prayed, teach me true hospitality. Help me not think about myself. Hence began my redefining of this word.
And, oh, how this word is in desperate need of redefining!! I don’t think I’m alone when I say hospitality generally brings about visions of, well, let’s be honest: everything Pinterest. Chalkboard greetings at the door, chevron-painted pumpkins, and strawberry lemonade served in mason jars. Everything from the party favors to the straws must be color-coordinated to go with the theme (because now, of course, every get-together needs a theme, be it mustaches or sparkles). Sugar cookies no longer cut it- a ‘modern’ hostess is expected to present pastel macaroons, gold-sprinkled cake pops, or tiered cakes.
As much as we would love to blame it on our obsession with social media (and truthfully our preoccupation with showing off pretty pictures of everything we see or do is borderline in sane), Pinterest is only a reflection of our sinful, self-absorbed hearts longing to make an impression, gain affirmation, and feel noteworthy. Joy Forney recently described Pinterest as “Martha Stewart’s younger and hipper sister”. And before Martha Stewart, it was someone else setting the standard. “The Jones” have been present from the Garden of Eden, tempting Eve to take the place of God. I fear that opening our homes up to guests is often just another avenue we seek to fulfill our covetous longings to feel important.
I was recently challenged by Jen Wilkin’s juxtaposition between entertainment and hospitality:
“Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because it was listening to a story.
Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared.
Entertaining, exhausted, says “It was nothing, really!” Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really.
Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.”
When put in that light, a perfectly modern, spotless home can actually intimidate guests more than welcome them. And lest we demonize decorations or cleanliness, I must add that having a chaotic and dirty home could also potentially prevent visitors from being refreshed and blessed as well.
The point isn’t what “level” of Good Housekeeping we should present- one woman’s DIY haven can contribute to her ministry, while another’s will distract. Ultimately, it is our motives behind hospitality that will determine the climate of our home and whether or not others feel welcome “as Christ welcomed us” (Rom 15:7).
Melissa Kruger writes in her article, “Open Roof Hospitality“, “[Hospitality] is not intended to show off what we have, but to demonstrate who we follow.”
Who we follow... When I think of the kind of hospitality Jesus demonstrated throughout his lifetime, one word comes to mind: messy. Messy confrontations over messy politics; messy roofs being ripped open to free a man of messy bandages; and messy sinners breaking messy perfume over messy feet.
When I allow Christ to define hospitality, I realize that true hospitality is not the absence of messes. On the contrary, it is the presence of messes. Messy carpets, messy sinks, messy dishes, messy stories, and messy lives.
I know the only way I can truly open up my home with a heart focused on others- and not distractedly worrying whether or not my toilet is clean- is by understanding the origin of hospitality. After all, the first invitation ever given was sent out before the foundations of the world, sealed by the blood of Christ, and anticipates the greatest party of all time- in heaven, with our Lord… The first invitation ever initiated: also known as the gospel. Christ invited us, he welcomed us, he clothed us, he fed us- and all this, while we were completely undeserving.
The more the gospel sinks into our hearts, the more our intentions are purified. No longer will we invite others into our homes and hearts in hopes of getting affirmation or status in return, but we will delight in pouring out undeserved and MESSY love on all who enter through our doorway.