Thoughts on Hospitality

A book I stumbled upon recently, Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, is a memoir written by Lauren Winner that details what she has learned from the “traditions and spiritual practices of Judaism.” Winner became a Christian later on there life and she explains how Christians could learn from some of the Jewish practices. She looks at concepts such as sabbath, mourning, fasting, and candle lighting.

The chapter that struck me the most was her chapter on hospitality. She talks about how important hospitality is to the Jewish faith. Because they were once “strangers in the land of Egypt,” Jewish communities take inviting people into their homes seriously. In the words of one rabbi, “everything God created is a manifestation of His kindness. The world is one big hospitality inn.” Not only does God’s creation encourage us to invite people into our homes because He created our homes, but as Christians we also believe in the Trinity. The Trinity causes us to not only invite people into our homes, but into our lives because we were created to be in relationship just as God is in relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Here are her words that have had my brain spinning for the past few weeks:

“We are not meant simply to invite people into our homes, but also invite them into our lives. Having guests and visitors, if we do it right, is not an imposition, because we are not meant to rearrange our lives for our guests- we are meant to invite our guests to enter into our lives as they are. It is this forging of relationships that transforms entertaining (i.e. deadly dull cocktail parties at the country club) into hospitality (i.e. a simple pizza on my floor). As writer Karen Burton Mains puts it, “Visitors may be more than guests in our home. If they like, they may be friends.” …. At its core, I think, cultivating an intimacy in which people can know and be known requires being honest- practicing the other Christian discipline of telling the truth about where we live and how we got there. Often, I’d rather just dissemble. Often, just as I’d rather welcome guests into a cozy and cute apartment worthy of Southern Living, I’d rather show them a Lauren who is perfect and put-together and serene.”

For some reason, these words have pushed me to let go of my perfectionism when it comes to my home. Yes, I want it to be cozy and yes, I want it to be orderly. But, I do not need to sweat it when people drop by or when they come over on an “off” day and my house is not exactly the way I’d like it to be. Because like Winner is talking about, I don’t want to just invite people into my home and portray a life that isn’t my own, I want to invite people into my actual life.

The life where there may be several laundry baskets on my living room floor.

The life where my children may be crabby because they did not get enough sleep or they are just…crabby.

The life where a teething baby needs to be constantly held.

The life where crumbs abound.

The life where I am not put together nor do I have it all together.

The life where I am constantly learning to be more gentle and gracious with those around me.

But the life where Jesus is seen and felt, where peace is seen and felt, where love is seen and felt. Because I know that He has me and I trust what He is doing in my life. Because I am grateful for my home and the mess that it holds. Because I can choose joy for all of the blessings and trials my family has and endures. Because He is good.

This is what I want to invite people into.

It is so freeing to view hospitality in a deeper way. Not a “put together and serene” hospitality, but a nitty gritty, come into my life and let’s walk this journey together hospitality.

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