The holidays gave me multiple opportunities to be a guest as well as a host. In some instances, I visited someone for a few daylight hours. In others, I was an overnight guest for several days. The hosting aspect brought similar variation. I would like to think that I am a terrific guest and host. However, if I am either, it is the result of intentional effort because my natural state is that of a loner who is most comfortable alone in her own space.
Yet, there is a tremendous blessing in giving and receiving hospitality. In this age of high-tech (and often impersonal) communication, tremendous joy is possible through the basic ritual of sharing a common experience. Meals, games, or other activities can bring people together in delightful ways. Before it was a phone feature – FaceTime was a real experience where people saw you, expressed concern based on their observations moreso than your statements, cared for you, and was interested in something other than your hashtag. Simply put, hospitality provides a vehicle for fellowship. Extending or accepting an invitation is an act of trust and vulnerability. You are sharing yourself with someone, serving, or allowing yourself to be served. The very thought of someone doing anything for me used to make me feel terribly guilty. However, several years ago the Lord flooded my home, making it uninhabitable for several months. That experience forced me to do what I struggled with doing my entire life – depend on and admit my vulnerabilities to other people. Thank God for a dear couple that I count among my closest friends. They allowed me (and my cat) to be their impromptu, multi-month house guests. That experience restored far more than my home, it brought healing to my heart. People rallied around me and encouraged me in all sorts of unexpected ways.
In any event, being a guest or host is no easy task. There is a great deal of additional work involved in preparing for a guest. Who wants to do MORE cleaning, cooking, preparation, logistics, etc.? Even as a guest, there are compromises involved so that you don’t inconvenience your hosts. 1 Peter 4:8-10 says “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”
As I stayed with friends and family over the holidays and several stayed with me, I found myself becoming increasingly sensitive about and grateful for these wonderful snippets of opportunity. We enjoy being a guest or host because it is love in action! Hospitality is a spiritual gift and expression of love. Love is what motivates us to go the extra mile to make others feel welcome, comfortable, wanted, and appreciated. Romans 12:13 says “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
We do not have to wait until the holidays or securing our dream house to exercise the gift of hospitality. Every day, we have a divine opportunity to make space in our hearts for others, to be gracious, welcoming, thoughtful, and generous. The more we exercise these acts of loving kindness, the more proficient we’ll become. As the saying goes, home is where the heart is.