The Lost Art of Hospitality

hos•pi•tal•i•ty (ˌhɒs pɪˈtæl ɪ ti)

1. the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers; an act or show of welcome.
2. the quality of being hospitable and welcoming to guests or strangers.
3.  cordial and generous reception of or disposition toward guests.

 

I love Wednesdays, because it’s small group night.  Every Wednesday, my favorite Nashville college gals pile in my living room to grow together, share together, and inevitably laugh together.  I love waking up on Thursday mornings to a floor full of evidence  that a bunch us had rather enjoyed a snack the night before  I smile as I sweep up the crumbs, thinking about the laughter and sharing that took place.  And every Thursday, without fail, I think about how much I love opening my home up for the possibility of community.

I feel like oftentimes I get labeled as the party planner, the social coordinator, and the food girl – but I think this is all a result of my love for making people feel welcome and special.  I like to plan for people to feel at home.  I have a passion for hospitality.

Hospitality seems to have become a lost art in the shuffle of busy lives.  It’s easier to meet friends out for dinner, and it’s more convenient for family and friends to get a hotel when they come in town to visit.  It’s not terribly easy to be hospitable.  It requires flexibility, preparation, and generosity; things our culture doesn’t easily embrace.  Hospitality seems to be viewed as an archaic art, something they did in the Old Testament times and in Little House on the Prairie days when resources were scarce and lives were slower-paced.

But can we all agree that there is something so intimate about having others into our homes that can’t be replicated in even the quaintest of restaurants or the comfort of a hotel bed?  There is something simple and precious about hospitality.

There is a vulnerability that comes with opening your home – it’s an invitation for others to see what you value, what you esteem, and how you live.   We are most ourselves in our homes, aren’t we? It’s where we put on comfy pants and eat what we please and lounge around.  Isn’t there something beautiful about inviting others into our realest selves?  There’s something about a vulnerable and safe setting that paves the way for authenticity and community.

Throughout Christian history, God’s people have been marked by generosity and servitude.  The Bible is filled with examples of practicing hospitality.  Abraham opened his home to strangers (turned out to be God and 2 angels so that worked out nicely), Rahab opened her home to the “spies” (and in turn her life was spared so that worked out nicely, as well), Boaz shared his extra crops with Ruth (and they ended up getting hitched so that worked out really nicely, am I right?).

The New Testament is full of examples of opening homes and breaking bread, too.  There is the famous Mary and Martha story, and countless instances of the Disciples breaking bread together.  And the early church regularly practiced opening their homes to other missionaries and people who needed food and rest.

I love this explanation for hospitality from 1 Peter 4: 8-10:

“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homelesscheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!”

I can get into that, can’t you?

The pursuit of intimate and purposeful community has been a theme of my adult life, and one of the ways that I have seen that fostered has been through hospitality.  I’ve learned a lot through this journey and no doubt, I will continue to do so, but here are some nuggets I have learned:

  1. Hospitality isn’t entertaining – Entertaining has it’s place in life, but I got entertaining and hospitality mixed up for a while.  Hospitality is more about sharing and entertainment is more about production.  Don’t get me wrong, I want everyone who walks through my doors to feel special, but I am much more able to be present with them if I am interacting with them and not trying to impress them.
  2. Hospitality isn’t about perfection – I got this wrong for a long time, too.  I’m a perfectionist, and for years, I wanted everyone that walked in the door to be greeted with a perfectly clean house and a perfectly cooked meal and a perfectly dressed host, but the truth is, perfection doesn’t foster community, and it certainly doesn’t foster vulnerability.   Hospitality is about welcoming people as they are into your home, as it is.
  3. Hospitality is learned and practiced – When I want to make something a habit, I have to be intentional, I have to implement, and I have to follow-through.  Hospitality has to be learned and practiced in order to become a lifestyle, but it’s a fun learning process.
  4. Hospitality isn’t just about serving, it’s about mutual sharing – Hospitality isn’t about me giving and the guest receiving, it’s about sharing and learning.  When I open my home, I learn about another’s story, I share my own, and I learn from my guests.  I love that hospitality brings joy to both the host and the guest.

 

What have you learned/gleaned through your own hospitality and the hospitality of others?

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