Can't have anyone over because I haven't washed my hair in three days. Can't have anyone over because no one can see the carpet through all the toys. Can't have anyone over because I have nothing more creative to cook than chicken, stuffing, and cream of chicken soup thrown together in the crock pot. Can't have anyone over because my children will be loud and disruptive. Can't have anyone over because guests might spot the spiderwebs lurking in the corners of my vaulted ceiling. Can't have anyone over because I'm too tired, too busy, too cranky. I could go on and on...
When my girls were little, I occasionally mulled over the meaning of the Apostle Paul's exhortation in Romans to "practice hospitality." Then, I forgot about it and went to change another diaper or figure out which "little angel" managed to lob pink play-dough onto the ceiling fan. But, eventually, I begin to look into this Biblical notion of hospitality a little more. I was overwhelmed by the number of times homes were mentioned during the time of the early church, both as a meeting and eating place for believers, and as a tool to spread the gospel. "They (believers) broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts." (Acts 2:46). Hospitality was not supplemental for the discipleship of believers and spread of the gospel; it was foundational.
Jeff and I came to realize that even though we are introverts, even though we have young children, and even though our schedules seem full, we can carve out some occasional time to have people into our home. Perfection or anything approaching perfection is not required. Max Lucado, in his book "Outlive Your Life," said it best:
"If we wait until everything is perfect, we'll never issue an invitation. Remember this: what is common to you is a banquet to someone else. You think your house is small, but to the lonely heart, it is a castle. You think the living room is a mess, but to the person whose life is a mess, your house is a sanctuary. You think the meal is simple, but to those who eat alone every night, pork and beans on paper plates tastes like fillet mignon. What is small to you is huge to them. Open your table."
For us, the best time to host someone is lunch time on Sunday. This is because we attend church services on Sunday evening, leaving our Sunday mornings and afternoons free. People seem to be more available at this time because they work less and have fewer scheduled activities on Sunday. We have also had guests over for dinner during the week (especially Jeff's co-workers visiting from outside the country).
We don't have people every week--far from it. Sometimes we need some family "down" time, sometimes life gets too hectic, and sometimes plans fall through for a myriad of reasons. But we have become more intentional about opening our home.
Who do we invite? It is definitely anything goes, and we have moved far beyond our comfort zone and also acquired friendships, connections, and a richness to our family's life beyond anything we could have dreamed. We invite our neighbors, especially those we don't know well. We invite our friends and family. We invite people from church that we would like to know better. We invite the families of our children's school friends. We invite visiting missionaries. We have even invited families who we meet at the park for the first time on Sunday morning--next thing you know, they are sitting across the table from us, sharing a meal.
Together we have laughed, cried, shared, reminisced, and conversed on everything from the weather to life-and-death decisions. We have been blessed to learn about other cultures and faiths. We have achieved a knowing and an understanding of others that is impossible to replicate by exchanging status updates on Facebook, texting, or communicating by e-mail.
Mika and Macy have been taught that each guest that comes to our home is made in God's image and deserving of our honor and respect. They open the door to our guests and say, "Welcome to our home!" They have learned social, cultural, and spiritual lessons that cannot be acquired in a classroom. The girls have looked across the table and seen people of all ages, colors, abilities, walks of life, and backgrounds.
Don't get me wrong, things don't always go smoothly. Sometimes the meat is overcooked or the tablecloth is wrinkled and lopsided. Sometimes my girls spill milk or end up fighting over who they are going to sit next to (yes, it's embarrassing!) There are moments of strained silence and times when the noise level threatens to unhinge my eardrum. I've spotted a live bug in the corner of the dining room; don't know if our lunch buddies saw it or not (just keeping it real, folks).
But it is so worth it! What a blessing it has been to open our home and our table to others. I hope that, even if you are in the midst of CHAOS, you will consider giving it a try--I think you'll be glad you did!