Romans 12:13: distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Many years ago I remember reading books on practicing hospitality. I definitely did not see myself as this type of person. All the books I read made it sound to intimidating. I felt like I really had to have my act together to be hosting Bible studies in my home or inviting strangers over. Plus, I'm more of an introvert so the whole idea of hospitality was just a bit to much. I enjoy people quite a bit, but putting the word “hospitality” in the mix suddenly made it seem like a work. I felt it was something to add to a to-do list of life or that was required of me as a Christian. So right then and there I decided that this just was not a gift that the Lord had given me.
But as time went on here is what happened. We met a family at church one Sunday and invited them over to our home for dinner. They had children about our kids ages and we hit it off. Became very good friends for many years. But, in my mind, this was not hospitality, this was just having a family over from church. My husband met a man at work and got to know him, they had just moved to the area, we invited him and his family over for dinner, but again, in my mind, this was not hospitality, it was just having a family over for dinner.
As my kids grew up they made friends and for many years my house was always full of extra kids. Every weekend, afternoons during the week, summer time. As one of my older son's friends commented to me a couple months ago when he was here visiting, “your house was always the fun place to be”. But, to me, that was not hospitality, that was just what you do when you have children.
When my daughter Emily was enrolled in College Plus she informed me that she'd invited 25 College Plus students to our house for a weekend. They were having a ministry get together and would that be a problem :). But, to me, that was not hospitality, it was just helping my daughter out.
When my sister in law was going through a transition in her life, she needed a place to stay for a bit. Right away I told her, you are welcome here for as long as you need. But, to me, that was not hospitality, that was helping my family.
Several years ago a friend and I wanted to read and discuss a book together. We met at my house and would read a chapter a week and discuss the lessons from each chapter. Pretty soon another friend joined us. We did this for a while with various different books. But, to me, this was not hospitality, it was just something we did together for encouragement.
Just this summer I've had many visits from friends and family. Often times they will call me up and say, I'm driving by your area, are you up for a visit and a cup of coffee? I always say, “YES!!”.
Over the years people have come and gone from my home. I've served many meals, made a lot of coffee, and it became obvious to me that hospitality is more about being willing and open than it is a work on a to-do list. For me it has not been a “hospitality mindset”, as in, ok, I need to make sure I do 'this'. It has come naturally from just simply having an open heart, open arms and an open door. It has been all about letting the Lord take the lead (even though I had no idea that was what was happening over the years :) and simply being available to those the Lord sent my direction.
It has not been about being the perfect hostess, it has not been about having a clean enough house for company, it has not been about being a perfect Christian. It has nothing to do with being an introvert or extrovert. I really don't believe it has anything to do with having a gift for hospitality.
The biggest lesson I've learned is that it's about being willing, and having the desire to extend the love of God to those He puts in life's path. After all the years I see it as God doing His work through day to day life, not something I set out and endeavored to do.
A friend once said to me, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. People that serve and extend themselves will be some of what people see and experience of God. I'm sure it has an impact in ways we don't often understand. I think of people who extended open hearts and open arms to me over the years, and they most likely did not realize the impact it has had on my life.
There really is no art to practicing hospitality, it ultimately is being willing to let God work through your life to bless and serve those around you.