It was a wonderful trip, 9 days of visiting friends and family, most of whom we haven’t seen for a long time, because although my husband and I both went to college in the Northeast, we are back in this general area after 4 years in Europe, 2 in California, and nearly 2 in Chicago.
A few weeks ago I had a post on the Christianity Today women’s blog on why it’s good to have people over to your house for dinner, even if it can feel vulnerable and awkward. I didn’t say much in that piece about how accepting hospitality also involves some vulnerability. It means accepting the kindness of others, which in our culture can sometimes feel like weakness. I suspect that’s one of the reasons some of us find it easiest to meet at “third places,” like restaurants and cafes. It’s easier to just go out to eat and order what you want and pay for yourself so that your friends don’t have to serve you and clean up after you.
Accepting hospitality is, I think, a little like accepting grace. You can’t earn it. You can’t make yourself worthy to receive it. Which is why it’s uncomfortable to accept. Accepting grace means admitting you need it. Accepting hospitality means accepting a gift of someone’s time, effort, and resources. Sure, you might bring a thank-you gift or card, but only a cynic would regard that as payment.
But staying with friends, eating with friends in homes–there is something almost miraculous going on there that I can’t quite put my finger on. I guess I can see why Jesus did so much of it. Even where I experienced nervousness at being so close to people I hadn’t seen for years (or, in some cases, hadn’t yet met), joy overwhelmed the nervousness. There is something precious about meeting people in their homes, seeing them with their children and in the place where they are (I think!) most comfortable. You can see that they are not so different from you–whether it’s in the quirkiness of their decor, the occasional crankiness of their children, or the unpredictability of pets, meal plans, and laundry piles.
(More than once, our children were cranky, rude, or whiny, prompting our various hosts to say in all sincerity, “your kids do that, too?” Tim & I joke that it’s our ‘ministry’ to help other parents feel better about their kids’ behavior…)
We are home now, but the joy of communing with friends on this trip has made me crave more hospitality in my life–more times of connecting over food and drinks and conversation, more times accepting and offering gifts of grace in bread, wine, and words.
Thank you for your sweet hospitality, dear friends! We love you so much.