I used to fear the doorbell. I was afraid of someone stopping by to find me and my house in shambles. Dirty laundry strewn outside the laundry room. Milk spills, coffee rings, and cereal bowls left out on the kitchen table. Crumbs on the floor. Bills and paperwork scattered all over the counter. Me in my not-exactly-flattering outfit of sweatpants and my husband’s t-shirt. And yikes — my untamed hair!
It’s not that I didn’t want friends to stop by. I did. But on my terms. When I had nice furniture that didn’t scream, "A one-year-old was here." When the crayons were nicely placed in their box instead of scattered all over the playroom. When the laundry was folded and neatly put away, no stray toys waiting to be stepped on, and I had a sparkling kitchen — one that looked like it’s never known a dirty dish for more than an hour, or at the most two.
Once I got my cleaning schedule in order, then people could stop by. Then I’d jump in excitement at the idea of hearing the doorbell ring.
Sure, part of my motivation was wanting people to be comfortable and not distracted by the corner with a cobweb, fingerprints on the patio door, and — gasp — dirty dishes in the sink. That wasn’t my primary motivation, though.
Instead, I’ve been driven more by concern about myself and not wanting people to think I’m messy sometimes. Not only that, but wanting others to be impressed by the home I keep and perhaps, even envious of my beautiful furniture and skillful decorating. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting and having a clean, presentable, and comfortable home, obsessing over it’s another issue.
Because of my obsessing, I’ve cared too much about what other people think about the physical items in my home. My thoughts have run along these lines: If only I had these storage bins our closet would be so much more organized and functional. If I had that great expensive cleaner, my floors would look better. If I had plusher, prettier couches people
would beg to come over to sit on them.
Instead, I should have been thinking about how I can use what I do have to reach out to others. And the thing is, even if I had those storage bins and prettier couches, I probably wouldn’t be satisfied. There would still be more. I’d want to make my home even better and more desirable.
As a result, rather then being grateful for what I do have, and inviting someone over for an impromptu visit when I know it looks like a tornado ripped through our playroom, I’ve passed up on some great opportunities for fellowship, encouragement, prayer, and growth in
For example, a few years ago I remember running into a friend at the grocery store. She was reaching out to me for advice and instead of inviting her over right then, I scheduled a time that evening with her at a coffee shop. I realized the next morning that our time together wasn’t as effective as it could have been if I’d put aside my pride and invited her to my imperfect home right then and there, instead of meeting with her later in a public place. I think I made it harder for both of us to concentrate and perhaps she didn’t open up as much because of fear that others might overhear. I was more concerned about the state of my home than helping a friend in need.
But my obsessing came to an end one afternoon when I was convicted while paging through yet another home decor magazine. It struck me that I don’t care if I stop by a friend’s house and it’s a mess. Sure, I appreciate cleanliness, good taste, and design, but it doesn’t matter to me if they bought their furniture at Pottery Barn or at the discount furniture store. I don’t care if there are toys I have to step over or if there are a few dishes in the sink. I spend time with others in their homes to console, care for, listen, encourage, and share with them; not to critique or to lust over things I wish I had.
And if I don’t care about these things, then I doubt my friends really care about how well my house is decorated and put together when they’ve come over for encouraging words. They don’t care that it isn’t all in perfect order when they come to fellowship.
And I think that’s what hospitality’s all about. It’s about offering the humble gift of my home, not presenting a perfect picture.
In Romans 12:13, Paul encourages us to practice hospitality. He writes, "Take care of God’s needy people and welcome strangers into your home." My home should be an extension of me and my family, a place we willingly offer to family, friends, and even those we hardly know. A place where people feel comfortable to stop by unannounced. Hospitality allows me to reach out and touch people in a more personal way.
I want others to enter my home and enjoy the same love, kindness, and care I’ve received when friends have invited me over. I want my home to be a place where even a perfect stranger can feel comfortable and cared for because of our love and concern for them, not because
it’s so warm and cozy.
It’s my prayer that I’d be satisfied and grateful for the things God’s given me inside my home, instead of wanting more. I pray that I would be reminded to be grateful that He’s given me a place to welcome others into. A place where I can learn from others who enter in. A place where I might share God’s love with them.
The next time I hear the doorbell ring, I plan on opening the door wide. I plan to welcome my friend inside and give her my undivided attention.
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