I know that I just wrote a post about my love for throwing parties, and I meant it. My dream job (a part from getting paid money to write) would be event planning. Back when Jonathan was a youth pastor (before I had kids and before I could cook) I used to plan social events for our church family and I just loved every part of it.
I also love having people in my home. I take seriously to command to exercise hospitality and I enjoy having friends in for a comfortable meal and fellowship and maybe a game or a discussion or whatever makes our friends comfortable. The first thing that would change about our life if Jonathan ever stopped working at Chick-fil-A and we had our evenings back would be our return to having someone in for a meal once a week.
Here’s the thing. I love entertaining. I love hospitality. I get a little stressed when the two things coincide. This weekend we are hosting a Lunch with a Missionary event for our church’s missions conference and I’m freaking out a little. If I was planning a lunch for our small group and a missionary family to be held at another location I would be a little giddy. If I were having a missionary family over for lunch after the service I would be thrilled. Instead I’m hosting sixteen people for lunch in my 800 sq. ft. seminary apartment and I’m freaking out a little.
Some of the freaking out is pure logistics: how do I fit everyone comfortably into my apartment? How do I make sure everyone feels relaxed and welcomed instead of shoulder to shoulder? Do I install a timer and traffic light on the only bathroom?
But mostly the freaking out is a fear of having my personal failings exposed. I’m afraid that I can’t meet my own expectations for both entertaining and hospitality and that both will suffer. I’m freaking out because I’m making it all about me. I am providing an opportunity for some people from my church to meet missionaries to Africa that our church supports and I’ve managed to make that about what people will think of my baseboards and centerpieces. It’s a little ridiculous when I put it down in black and white like that.
The bottom line, however, is that fearful or not, potential personal fail moment or not, we’re doing it, and we’ll love it and hopefully no one will remember my baseboards, or my centerpieces, or maybe even my name. Instead I hope that people will come to my home to meet missionaries, and that they will leave glorifying God for all He has done.
Now please excuse me, while I move all my living room furniture into my dining room for the weekend.
One of the things I decided when I was hugely uncomfortably pregnant with the snickerdoodle was that I was going to make more of an effort to reach out to women in their final four to six weeks of pregnancy. I appreciated the meals that came after the snickerdoodle was born, but the people who either brought food or invited us over for meals in those last weeks before she made her appearance are burned forever in my mind as some of my most favorite people EVER!
There aren’t as many pregnant women in my life this year as there were last, but one of them is the wife of one of our associate (assistant? I always get those confused) pastors at church. I hesitated before even suggesting to her that we would like to either bring them a meal or host them here. I guess I’m still holding on to some of those “larger church myths” that have lived so long in my mind – one of which is that the staff of larger churches are far too important and busy and importantly busy to spend time with the little folks, especially little folks who will graduate and likely move on to smaller things in the next three years.
So I hesitated, but eventually sent her a quick email asking if such a thing would be a help.
Tonight they came for dinner.
I can’t say enough how glad I was that I let go of that myth.
We had such a great, easy evening that part of the way through, as we were chatting about something or other I found myself laughing in my head at this idea that these nice, enjoyable, fun people would have turned their noses up at dinner in seminary housing. Turns out that they were real people. Who knew?
All of this reminds me of why I love having people in my home. When we see each other exclusively at church, or out in social situations, we can often think of them as not quite real, but when we’re in one another’s homes we begin to take form as genuine people who do simple things like eat, and take our kids to the potty. It’s how we build community and it’s why God calls us to be hospitable.
Because it turns out we’re all real people.
For as long as we’ve been married, Jonathan and I have loved having people in our home. For roughly ten years Jonathan did the cooking and I did the . . . smiling, and opening the door. That sounds lame when I type it out. It seemed a lot more equitable back then. Regardless, as I’ve become more proficient in cooking and especially now that I’m staying at home and Jonathan is . . . busy . . . I’ve taken up more of the duties of hospitality, and we still love doing it.
Honestly, until the last few weeks I have always seen it as a way of getting to know people, a way of spending time with people I like, I guess a way of being an extrovert without leaving home. Over the last few weeks several people have invited us for meals, and I have begun to realize what a double blessing it is to not have to worry about supper, and then to come home to a clean(ish) kitchen! being on the receiving end of someone else’s hospitality at the end of pregnancy has given me a new perspective on the purpose of hospitality.
I have always understood that scripture commands us to be hospitable, but it wasn’t until now that I have really understood that we serve people by bringing them into our home, for a meal, a night or a season of life. It’s one of the ways we bear one another’s burdens. It’s a big part of being the family of God. Why did it take me this long to realize it?