One of my good friends lives, quite literally, in a shack. He built it himself and it’s smaller than my basement suite. Between his piano and various woodworking tools, this man doesn’t have room for anything extra — no non-essential “stuff.” He can’t hoard or collect, which is great.
Part of the reason he is happy to live this way is that he is confident God is enough for him, he really trusts God. His dream, though, is different from mine. He wishes to simplify. I want a bit of space and furniture so that I can open my home up and invite people over.
I mean, sure, this friend can invite people to sit on the piano or spread a blanket on the ground outside. In winter, though, who is going to come to prayer meetings? Who wants to sit out on the beach atop six inches of snow? We live in Canada — winter is no joke. We go to the beach in winter for ice fishing, not prayer meetings.
He will soon have to leave his home not just to take part in church but for everything social related to worship. Maybe he’s okay with that; perhaps this is a good time in his life to continue focusing on God in solitude.
For my part, I can’t imagine doing life without people around me, including a landlord/landlady and their son making noise and being close by. Their presence, though noisy, is comforting.
I can enjoy solitude for the purposes of prayer and creativity, but my bubble can also be filled with people when the time comes. That is when I can put the camp chairs and floor mat away and offer somewhere reasonable to sit.
The Hospitable Dream
I have a small gathering area suitable for six to ten people, maximum as long as my furnishings are small: no big antiques; no hardwood behemoths. I just bought a drop-leaf table, which can be reduced to the size of a small bookshelf. If I have guests, we now have somewhere to eat dinner besides our laps. I always wanted to offer hospitality. This has been my dream, and it requires a couple of things:
1. A place to invite people.
2. Some degree of comfort.
Yeah, if people love you, they’ll sit on a rock and eat dry bread in your company, but who wants to give their friends dry bread and rocks? One of my best friends is 85 — she at least has to have a comfy chair.
And my dream is not merely to invite people who are my firm friends but to open up to acquaintances and give them a place of safety and refuge where they will see and hear the gospel at work. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
In order to host Thanksgiving dinner or game night, my home must be ready. I can’t be too minimal: with nowhere to sit, it looks like I don’t want you to stay. If I gather too many things around me, objects take up space meant for people.
I know the most important space I give them is space in my life.
Excited to Get Started
Paul wrote in Titus 1:8 — be “hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” The most important part of getting ready for hospitality is preparing my heart to be God’s servant and to serve him by being a good host to the lost.
Prayer, discipline, time with the Lord: they matter more than chairs and dishes. The more time I spend in Jesus’ company, the readier I am to reflect Christ to anyone who comes through my door.
Furnishings will come — choosing is difficult, I hate to spend money. But those accessories aren’t as important as dealing with the sin in my life. I’m an extroverted introvert. I love people, but I’m used to my own space, my own company.
Though I work with people full-time, and this requires some level of interpersonal skill and patience, I can always do better; be gentler; listen more closely.
“An overseer must be above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2). As a host, initiating events, I’m an overseer. I’m a leader. In fact, I often take this role and I love bringing people together. Initiating social events forces me to be accountable. How do I feel about God?
What do I think of him, or have I given him much thought at all? Every day is a day to prepare for the next opportunity to open my doors to friends. I can’t just pray five minutes before they come and expect to be at peace with Christ.
Reflecting Christ is not about behavior but relationship. And relationships require investment. The world will see Christ in me if I’m in Christ because Christ transforms me. The only thing I contribute is submission.
So, as excited as I am to send out my first invitations (Canadian Thanksgiving comes very soon), I am even more excited by what the Lord will do with me as I prepare. If I want to develop relationships over coffee and cribbage, my relationship with God is going to have to grow every day.
Hospitality on the Move
“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Come to my house or meet me on a hiking trail: it shouldn’t matter.
My very being should be an invitation to know the infinite love of Christ. I need God to help me to be “on” all the time because I am sometimes tempted to switch off between work and home. To be uninterruptable.
Sometimes, I don’t want to be hospitable, as though this is a contextualized virtue. It’s not. Being hospitable encompasses those traits, which make up the Fruits of the Spirit. Christ was always approachable. Am I? I don’t think so. Sometimes I’m tired of people. I work with and serve them at the grocery store 40 hours a week, but that’s no excuse.
Prayers to Prepare
Comfy chairs will come. I might add an end table or a TV for watching mission-related videos. Meanwhile, this is my prayer:
Father, God in heaven, I love you. I confess that it’s easy to think of hospitality as something I have planned for a time to take place in a given setting where I am in control; with behaviors and people I select. Instead, hospitality starts inside of me with a work only you can do.
Hospitality is a tool for missions, but I pray that I never see people as projects. I pray, God, that I will always be alert to your Holy Spirit’s prompting as to whom I should invite and how to testify to your goodness, grace, mercy, glory, and love when they are here.
Also, Lord, I pray that you show me how to take this hospitality on the road. Everything that you teach me about how to make my home a warm place has to do with who you are living inside of me. This is a portable power; a testimony I can take to work, to the grocery store, and to every encounter, wherever I go.
Help me to let go of my desire to control how hospitality works in my life. Overcome my limitations; overpower my hesitancy and sheer fatigue. Come in power, Jesus, so that everyone I come near catches an alluring glimpse of you and yearns for more.
Also, Father, I am reluctant to accept hospitality sometimes, as though this is what I do, no one else, yet I know what a gift it is to provide a safe and loving space. Soften my heart to be able to accept this gift from others. Defeat my pride. Father, let it be so, both in my home and in my life. Amen.
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Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.