Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Humble Hospitality

I was sitting in a pew in a church down south, largely zoned out of the sermon.  I now wish I had paid better attention, because when I surfaced from my own thoughts, I heard this:

"Ladies, watch that your hospitality does not become an exercise in pride, that your home does not become a boasting point, and that you do not seek accolades for the hospitality you provide.

At the time, I didn't take it to heart...living in a tiny one bedroom apartment, I couldn't imagine hospitality becoming a stumbling block for me.

In recent years, I've come to see what true hospitality really is, and what it is not - and that pastor's words come to mind frequently.  I see myself teetering on that line that separates prideful perfectionism from humble hospitality, and how the former contributes to discontentment and stress.

I looked up the definition, and it turns out that the word "hospitality" has nothing to do with a perfect, clean, well organized home at all.  It means to generously and warmly receive guests.

True hospitality is extending what you have, right where you are.  I always seem to forget that.  My heart pounds anxiety when someone just "stops by" and sees me, knee deep in my daily life, my mess all around.  My pride sabotages my ability to give my thoughts and concerns to my guest, and instead I catch myself thinking "I hope she doesn't notice the crumbs under the table.  Or the teetering stack of dishes in the sink...or the laundry tumbling down the basement stairs...or...."

There is nothing wrong with a clean house, or trying to make your guests comfortable by making your home nice.  It only becomes a stumbling block when hospitality becomes about how others perceive you, and not about how you receive them.

I am slowly chipping away at my pride, and trying to become someone who will welcome anyone, at any time, with a smile.  Drop by when I'm folding laundry?  Pull up a chair and let's talk.  Swing by after dinner when I'm elbow deep in the day's dishes?  Grab a cloth and dry for me.  This is my life, and it is my hope to find joy in sharing with you whatever it is I have at the moment, smudged windows and cracker crumbs and all.  My home is not perfect, with its 100 year old cracks and crevices, peeling paint, cluttered yard.  I'm not either. 

We are called to be hospitable, to open our lives and hearts and selves to others.  I have to try.

True service is the act of aiming low - the lowering of self, that is.  Like any exercise, this stretch can be uncomfortable in the beginning, but I know that with daily practice I will become more and more flexible as I bow ever lower.

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  1. This is so important for us to remember as we seek to create beautiful and welcoming homes- that we are welcoming with them, even when we have not mopped or dusted and newspapers are cascading in a torn pile onto a floor covered with crushed cheerios. My mother is inspirational to me in this as in many things. Her openness and generosity have created a home that is incredibly welcoming, even though it is stuffed to the gills, has one bathroom, and for years had no hot water and was full of screaming children. Thanks for writing this so beautifully.

  2. I agree this is such a great thing to be reminded of. I try to get self worth sometimes from all these outside things, like a clean home and children that behave well and having others notice and tell me how great I'm managing all these things can become too important and puff me up in ways that are super unhealthy and sinful. I'm learning that I can actually cause stumbling blocks to others when I use these things to fill some void in me. I can actually makes others feel badly about where they are and what they are or are not doing. With my "Hey, look how awesome I am and I can juggle too!" attitude...I really just hurt others.

  3. I just had company last night and slaved all day to dust, bake, cook, clean.....
    I didn't sit down until it was time to eat and by that time, I was so exhausted I was not a very good conversationalist. I took the time to make my house perfect and lost sight of why my guests were there... to talk and connect with me. I fall into this so much. Thanks Lydia.. not just for this one but for MANY posts that speak straight to my heart.

  4. I struggle with similar issues. My home is tiny and I am always hesitant to invite people over who live in bigger, newer, homes. I am scared of waht they may think. And I know this is not how God wants us to act. I am not serving Him in this way at all. My home is to be opened to all at all times. And I want it to be that type of home. I don't want to worry about what it looks like, per say, but I want people to remember how they were treated while they were here.
    This is something both myself and my husband need to work on!
    Thank you for this "humbling" post!

  5. Amy - I have the same thing going on - small older home and friends with bigger, new, freshly painted, beautifully decorated homes. It can be intimidating to be sure!

    I hope to get to the place where I can invite a family to dinner. I have never really done that.


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