September 10, 2008
Getting Rid of Pineapple Hospitality
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
On Friday night, my house will be clean. The kitchen will sparkle like one from Better Homes and Gardens, the guest room curtains will gently ripple in the breeze, and - best of all - my guests and friends will feel such warmth that they never want to leave.
Ever had that dream?
The impending arrival of friends has made me reconsider just what it means to practice hospitality. Part of me knows that the house is just not "ready" for guests - I don't even have a pineapple tacked on the wall at this point. Granted, the boxes have diminished, but I don't consider my house properly "finished" yet. For that reason, part of me feels like I can't offer my guests "real" hospitality.
Ever lived that reality?
So what does hospitality mean? The dictionary definition of hospitality surprised me. Hospitality is "the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way." Not one word about wowing the guests with the food, the after-dinner entertainment, or even the surroundings. The very definition takes the focus off of things and puts it back where it belongs - on people and fellowship. It's an attitude as well as an action.
Many of my favorite growing-up memories feature a table with lots of people around it. I remember laughter, encouraging conversation, challenging conversation. My parents still love to invite people they meet at church back to the house for brunch, even though many of their guests are total strangers two hours prior to the meal. They ask people about their lives and share their own. They don't put on a show, but they do offer authenticity and a desire to encourage others.
My house sure isn't perfect, but then, neither am I. Neither are the people who walk through my door. Waiting until the house is perfect actually signals a pride issue for me, because it's an excuse not to offer what I do have. I want to be like Lydia in Acts, who probably hadn't planned to shelter the disciples at her house until she asked them. She just saw the need and shared what she could. I desire that kind of heart, a heart that can share God's gifts of love, provision, and joy.
I think human hospitality is actually a pale reflection of how God welcomes us into His house. I can offer food, shelter, and company - He offers the bread of life, shelter from the storms, and a relationship with Him. I was the stranger in desperate need of His hospitality, and He opened the door. How's that for a precedent?
When my friends arrive on Friday, it'll be okay if I missed a cobweb. And if a stray box or two is still in the living room, my friends will probably chuckle and ask how the unpacking is going. Then we'll swap stories about their own recent moves and laugh at old trinkets we've rediscovered, like my Nerf gun. And my prayer is that throughout the course of the evening, we'll encourage each other in the new directions that God is pushes us. Yep. That's what hospitality means.
Intersecting Faith & Life: I want to view my home as not just a place to eat and sleep. I want it to be a place where ministry happens and God touches people, and that means taking the opportunities to see Him work. What opportunities do you have to practice hospitality? Are you letting appearances hold you back? Or are you ready to invite others into welcome and caring atmosphere?