For most of my life, I only heard the word “hospitality” used in southern magazines at my grandmother’s house. I figured you needed to be able to fold napkins into swans in order to practice it. Every few years, I’d also hear it tossed out as a spiritual gift that I assumed you needed in order to join the greeting team at church. Suffice it to say, I didn’t understand its true meaning or importance until the last few years. What I’ve learned since then is that hospitality is a game-changer in our ability to love people well. I recently had an interesting correlation for it, and I wanted to share it today.
My husband and I throw a lot of parties these days. Birthday parties, bridal showers, girls nights, and young adult events for our church mean that people are constantly in and out of our condo. Sometimes, we can barely even fit them all. Those times are my favorite! Due to the constant soirees happening, I bake a lot of layer cakes for different reasons, and especially love decorating fun little “naked cakes.” There’s only one problem. I can’t eat them.
Here’s the thing: I have a gluten allergy. It was medically diagnosed after several years of being sick, so it’s not one of those “I am on a trendy diet and don’t eat bread for the next 2 months” things. For a while after I found out, I tried to switch to gluten free cakes. They were, quite frankly, terrible. It was like eating bites of stale crackers and forgotten dreams. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but not much! I tried a million gluten-free flours and recipes, but nothing had the right consistency for the cakes I used to make.
I realized that I had to pick between making something beautiful and delicious, and making something that worked for me. It bothered me more than I would have guessed. I wanted to feel like part of the fun! I wanted to have my cake and eat it too! Obviously, it is such a tiny problem to not be able to celebrate with cake, and I certainly got over it. However, the twinge of remorse as I baked something I couldn’t have was eye-opening. I realized that if I made a cake that was about me, it wouldn’t be the best thing I could bring to the table. That got me thinking.
Hospitality isn’t just inviting someone into our comfort zone. It’s not about making a cake and sharing a piece. It’s creating a space that loves them well, sometimes at our own expense. Yes, it’s making them welcome, but that’s not all. It’s my belief that if you never feel uncomfortable practicing hospitality, then you may not be welcoming those that really need it. Because, you see, the people that need your hospitality are usually not exactly like you. The people who need hospitality the most are the confused, the angry, the outsiders. The ones who may smell bad or never say thank you, and who certainly might not bring something to the potluck. They’re the ones who are waiting to see if your hospitality depends on their behavior. The world says that their welcome is based on their ability to earn it. God’s heart says that they are welcome forever, freely. He says that we should throw the prodigal sons parties before they reform their behavior. He says that there is enough room at the table for everyone, even the tax collectors and the prostitutes.
We had someone without a home sleep on our couch last month. He thought our brand new, high thread count sheets that we laid out for him were a gift, and he smiled. “I will get a bed one day, and I’ll use these.” Our simple sheets gave him hope. When we woke up, he had taken them with him, and we smiled, because it cost us just a little something to have him stay that night.
- What are some ways that you show hospitality?
- What’s one way you can love past your comfort zone this week?