Two years ago, when I was newly married and living in our new flat, I knew I wanted to welcome people into our home and to do this I wanted to be the perfect host. To me, this meant a clean and tidy house, no dirty dishes in the sink, the smell of something delicious cooking in the kitchen, and a big smile on my face. Now, I‘m going to let you in on a little secret: this fantasy hostess does not exist, and this type of hospitality is unobtainable.
Tim Chester wrote “the focus of entertaining is impressing others; the focus of hospitality is serving others”. This quote had quite an impact on me, because that was exactly where my heart was: hoping people would be impressed by my home, my food, and my great hospitality skills. Instead, God wanted my heart to be in serving people, blessing them with a good meal, and using the opportunity to grow closer and deeper with others by sharing life.
Something had to change, and it was my heart. We see Jesus address this very issue, with Mary and Martha in Luke Chapter 10. While Mary chooses to spend time with Jesus, Martha is stressing out with the preparations for being the perfect host. Jesus clearly says that Mary has chosen better. So I prayed; God change my heart, grant me the gift of hospitality, the way you designed it.
It looks like freedom. Freedom from caring what I look like, what my food tastes like, how tidy my house is, and how my hosting skills are. Because what really matters is you, and me, and the time we have to share. So I started again, but this time, with a difference. This time, with the real me. And the real me is PJs at 6pm (and all other hours of the day), 3 days’ worth of dishes in the kitchen which I haven’t got round to washing, Asda price food in whatever recipe I can think of, and an oven which burns every single thing I cook! God made me this way, and has called me to show hospitality (despite all my flaws, because yes sometimes I still get stressed out).
I began to see that when God was at the centre of it, it was far better than the hospitality I could ever have shown without him. His heart delights in these meetings, and now so does mine! So I don’t mind if the real you means your baby is sick on my sofa, your kids leave sticky handprints on my cream walls, you trek mud into the carpets because you’ve come straight from walking the dog… I believe God is at work in the comfortable and the cluttered living rooms, in the relationships born over fresh cooked meals or over stale chocolate biscuits, because sometimes sharing life is messy. It’s unorganised. It’s unplanned. It’s the best I have to give. And it’s real.
Where is your heart on the topic of hospitality – is it something you love to do, can’t even think about doing, or hate to do but force yourself anyway? Let God speak to you this week about it, and see what happens to your heart.