What Scratches on the Hardwoods Taught Me about Hospitality

In 2013, my husband and I were blessed to buy the house I grew up in. Before us, my parents used this home to host my youth group, high school cheerleading squad, friends, and more. When Jack and I bought it, we wanted to continue using this it for God’s glory. Our life during the season of living there was abundant – my husband was a student pastor, and we brought all three of our children home.

As we moved everything out, I noticed every imperfection – scratches on the hardwoods, spots on the carpet, marks on the walls. At first, these imperfections embarrassed me. I thought, “My house really looked like this?” It was far from Pinterest-perfect. I realized, though, the imperfections were an indication that for 25+ years, this home was well-loved and well-lived in by my family. 

I thought about what it might signify if those imperfections weren’t there as we moved. It may mean our home wasn’t very open to others. It would probably mean our home wasn’t a fun place for our children to be. While we should take care of our home, opening our home to others and even loving the people well who live there means imperfections will come. Chairs were scooted across the floor so everyone could be in the living room to enjoy a board game. Our children spilled milk and juice on the floors. Nerf gun bullets were shot at the walls by both our children and students. In that home, I held the role of mom, wife, student pastor’s wife, and simply, Christian. If when all of the furniture was cleared out there weren’t a few imperfections, that probably would mean we didn’t use that home in a way that welcomed others. Simply, something just wouldn’t be right if everything was in perfect shape after nine years of student ministry and parenthood there.

I love how Rosaria Butterfield talks about hospitality (if you haven’t read The Gospel Comes with a Housekey, go read it!). A lot of what I’ll share here comes from that book along with her other teachings on hospitality. Rosaria says that our homes are to be embassies for Jesus, not castles. Embassies are full of ambassadors working on behalf of the respective country. Castles, on the other hand, are monuments built to make much of the people in them. If we treat our homes as embassies for Jesus, they’ll be places of welcome where others are invited in to learn about the One we’re ambassadors for, Christ. If our homes are castles, our doors will remain closed. We’ll be selfish with this gift God has given us, and our homes will be about making much of us, not Jesus.

I get it- hospitality isn’t easy. When we dig deep about why we don’t practice hospitality, though, we’ll find a lot of our reasoning may be wrong. Here are some common barriers to practicing hospitality:

  • Hospitality vs. entertainment. Our culture taints the word “hospitality”. We think it’s synonymous with “entertainment.” Therefore, our vision for it requires perfectly clean homes, to be the best cooks, and to make it look like we don’t even live there. We think it’s about impressing people, when in fact, biblical hospitality is the opposite. It’s about opening not just our homes, but our lives in general to love and serve others well, not impress them with our cooking or decorating skills. 
  • Insecurity. We feel awkward asking people, “Do you want to come over for dinner?” We’re afraid they won’t like our home or our food. Most of these thoughts are 100% in our head, though. Satan puts “what ifs” there to keep us from opening our homes and lives. What I’ve found, though, is that most people love any invitation to receive hospitality. No one has seemed to care that they may step on a Nerf bullet when they enter my home (or even get shot with them) or that my decor isn’t as up to date as I’d like. When people enter my home, we enjoy conversation and fellowship. The rest of the stuff I “what if” over just doesn’t even matter.
  • It actually is hard. All of this isn’t to say there isn’t difficulty in practicing hospitality. It requires sacrifice. We have to create time in our schedules and space in our grocery budget to practice it. It’s also a little chaotic to do so with young children. Guess what, though? Practicing hospitality provides excellent training on loving and serving others for our children (and ourselves). While these difficulties are true, that doesn’t make hospitality not worth it. Some of the sweetest conversations and discipleship times have happened over our dinner table or in our living room. There’s something about our homes that helps create deeper connections. Creating space in your schedule and budget may require some creativity (more on that below), but it’s worth it to obey this command Jesus gives us (1 Peter 4:9).

In order to practice biblical hospitality, we’ll probably need to get creative! Hospitality can be inviting someone over for dinner, but it isn’t just that. Here are a few “out of the box” hospitality ideas (what would you add to the list?):

  • Take someone a meal (a new mama, someone who just had surgery, a friend having a tough week, etc.).
  • Drop off muffins, cookies, snacks, etc. to a friend.
  • Have someone over for coffee and/or dessert (it doesn’t always have to be a full meal!).
  • Invite friends and their kids over for a playdate. 
  • For larger groups, host a drop-in of appetizers/desserts.

Ultimately, biblical hospitality is about living a life of welcome (I heard this teaching somewhere, but I can’t remember where). It’s doing life as normal, but inviting others into it. Are you already carving pumpkins with your family? Invite someone to join you! Are you already headed to the park? Ask friends to come! 

Many of the memories I have in the home we sold are because my parents practiced hospitality, which taught me to do the same. It’s memories of squeezing 7 teenagers on one couch to play a card game. It’s memories of watching our youth girls step up and lead Bible study. To be honest, I thought our current season would be one where I took a break from hospitality. We’re temporarily living somewhere, so half of our stuff is still in boxes, including most of our coffee mugs and serving dishes. The Lord convicted me, though, that if Biblical hospitality truly is about serving others, I can (and should) do that no matter where he’s put me. As Rosaria Butterfield says, God never gets the address wrong. Friends, no matter what season of life we’re in, the Lord commands us to practice hospitality. Invite others into your life and home with the purpose of loving them well and pointing them to Jesus.

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