Hospitality Challenge: It's Not About Your Space
I hit send and sat back, eager to see who would be the first to respond. The group text was to the wives of three different couples— with an invitation. Over the span of a few weeks, we had started the conversation with each of them regarding getting together with some “other couples.” See, each one of them knew us— but none of them knew each other. They didn’t have that much in common. And our family was about to gear up for a full summer of moving and renovations. It wasn’t exactly the perfect time to start a home group. But we know that there is no perfect time, and so we sent out the details and waited.
The first night everyone came over, boxes lined every wall of our house. By the third gathering, all my dishes were packed, and we were serving dessert off paper plates and toasting with red solo cups. Six weeks in, it was this group that showed up to move us out of our rental and into our new place. After carrying boxes and furniture all day, they pulled up camping chairs in our empty kitchen to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. A week later, they showed up for our first group night in our new place— making the trek downstairs to use the bathroom as we didn’t have any upstairs plumbing to speak of.
They didn’t care what type of dishes I had to serve them from, or what my space looked like. They weren’t concerned about squishing into the living room or sitting on the floor. These couples have seen our home at its absolute worst. They have joined us out for dinner at the end of a long workday, dirty, stinky and looking like a hot mess.
They aren’t in community with us because of what our house looks like; they are choosing to do life with us because we have chosen to open our lives to them.
Over the weekend I did a quick poll on Instagram asking what keeps people from opening their doors or choosing to be hospitable, and I was shocked and proud of the vulnerable responses. By a large margin, the thing that most people admitted was that they were insecure about their space. It was either too small, too messy, too ugly, or too “under construction.” What I keep reading over and over was, “it’s not good enough.”
And honestly, I’ve said those things too. When we were house poor and had hand-me-down furniture from my in-laws. When we lived in a third-story apartment. When we had small children toddling around, and visiting on our couch meant you probably stood up with cheerios or raisins stuck to your bottom. I’ve gone through the list of insecurities about my “ugly yellow” rental house, or the home that was “too small” to entertain in, or the dirt backyard because we couldn’t afford to do any landscaping.
Over the years, I still opened my doors, however, because doing so is something I love. Throwing eleborate, Instagram-worthy parties is not my thing, but I do enjoy hosting people. And I’ve learned to let my insecurities go, because I’ve realized that people step into my house, not because they are eager to be wowed by design ability, but because they have been offered an invitation into my life. The open door means that I’ve opened my calendar, my energy, and my heart to them, and by doing so I have given them value. If I had waited until my house was completely remodeled, styled, and white-glove approved, I would never be able to open my doors.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Peter 4:9 ESV)
Show hospitality— without grumbling about the size of your space.
Show hospitality— without complaining about the aesthetic of your space.
Show hospitality— without murmuring about the cleanliness of your space.
Show hospitality— without apologizing for the fact that you (and your family) live in your space, and that’s why it looks like a home, and not the cover of a Magnolia magazine.
Show hospitality— without having to justify, or compare, or over-compensate in some other way.
This week the challenge is to invite someone over spur-of-the-moment. Have someone over for dinner, ask a family back to your place after church, or host a playdate in your living room instead of the park. It can be someone that you already know or a complete stranger, but the idea is to not stress about your space. Sure, do a five-minute pick-up if that will make you feel better (anyone else have a master bedroom that becomes the catch-all right before guests arrive?), but you shouldn’t spend a day rearranging the furniture, buying new accent pillows, or scrubbing the floors.
Take it one step further: leave the dishes in the sink, the “to-be-folded” laundry in the basket in the living room, or do some dinner prep while a new friend pulls up a chair at the kitchen island. Show them what your normal space looks like, and see what happens to your typically surface or guarded conversation. It may just surprise you.
When we open our door to others, we are not extending an invitation to a performance, but rather, access to ourselves. They are crossing the threshold because of a connection they feel to us, not an affection they feel toward our space.
Don’t let your space get in the way of your hospitality.