“Did you say I’m like a raven of hospitality?” asked my dark-haired friend, eyes twinkling. (It was “maven of hospitality,” which sounds at least as odd.)
She’d just brought out a tray loaded with cups for tea or coffee. We were at her clean, comfy 1-bedroom basement apartment, and “we” were about 8 to 12 people. I was impressed; I couldn’t imagine myself doing what she was.
Maybe you can’t either. But remember: you’re broken. And remember: God works through it all for the good of those who love him. Brokenness too. Even yours. Even mine.
Fast forward five years to a sunny, if somewhat institutional-looking room, where I’m hearing a Sunday School lesson for some suburban youth. One sentence suddenly zoomed in to focus: “Hospitality is a weapon to fight against the dullness, the coldness, the deadness, the apathy… like we see in the suburbs.” And that claim was supported by these scriptures:
Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
Wow! This was exciting. This was glorious. I’d wanted weapons like that for a long, long time. As many as I could find, really. Around me, I saw my neighbor’s hearts dying inside them. Dry. Shriveled. Desiccated.
This dream of hospitality was wonderful news! But I still tended to count myself out of most of the action. I’m a bit messy and get frazzled when I cook. Is your apartment decorated in the style of “College dorm: Circa 1999”? Nonetheless, there are people who feel instantly comfortable there. But who wouldn’t in a sleek, chic place. There are people who would be far more blessed by your spaces than by a clean, airy mansion!
And those are what God calls us to love and serve: living, breathing people. How, though, can you find the right people to enjoy a messy, dorm-style apartment? Pray and act. Learn about hospitality. (Here’s “Simple Hospitality,” a playful, wise, low-stress book I enjoyed.) Discuss it with your most trusted friends.
With those trusted friends, also – share your struggles, not your strengths. I’ve been amazed by the way that conversations quickly go deeper with some friends I’ve known for years… when I share how I’m bad at cooking or dislike some cleaning tasks. I laughed with that friend who purchased a kinda “old-school” book on housework, and soon wanted to pitch it! (The book touted that it would help you do all your housework in “only two hours per day”!) I laugh at that close friend who pitches all clutter that’s not nailed down. But, when she works on her organizational systems, you know… I watch and get ideas from her! Accept others’ offers of hospitality at those times when you really want to but don’t think you can. Accept many gifts of help, understanding, counsel, and advice.
That’s basically my playbook. Oh – after you pray, wait. Maybe you’ll wait a whole day for God to bring those prayers to fruition. Or a month. Or years. But God is our captain. He can guide others’ footsteps like streams in His hand. He will surely bless us and our neighbors. We can thank Him for the many people who remind us of the dream of loving others through hospitality, too. *
* One person who “calls it to mind” through writing is Marilynne Robinson her luminous novels, “Home” and “Gilead.” (Thanks to the blogger who writes “Accidental Shelf Browsing” for those recommendations for great reads!) And hospitality shows up a lot on “Unequally Yoked,” which I am surely riffing off of in this post.