Today is a Thursday, and for us that means that today is the day we host Life Group at our house, so I thought it would be the perfect day to introduce you all to my new category on the blog: Hospitality. (Check the “Come In” page in the future for more posts like this.)
We have been hosting Life Group at our house almost exclusively since we moved back from Wisconsin in July of 2015. I dove headlong into it; 30 weeks pregnant with my son and desperate for fellowship despite the fact that we had only moved in 5 days ago. We hosted our first event, a Life Group BBQ, the Sunday after we had moved in. And as I welcomed a group of mostly strangers to a house that didn’t quite feel like mine yet, I knew that I was right where God had me. I was nervous and intimidated. I was stressed and hormonal. But somehow, I knew in my heart of hearts that this was right, and that God was going to teach me through hosting this group I knew so little about.
A year and a half later our Life Group doesn’t even contain many of the same people. Many have multiplied away, some have moved, some have had to step back from our fellowship for other reasons, and we eagerly long for and await their return. In the past year and a half we have changed the night of the week more times than anyone can remember (but we are pretty sure we’ve had it every single night at some point or other) and even now, the time at which we meet is under debate.
As a recovering perfectionist, my struggle is always one of releasing my own expectations of myself, and sometimes my expectations of others. (EEK!) I am learning to try and live up to my name: to offer grace to myself and others as freely as I know Christ offers it to me. All the Martha Stewart tricks and tips aren’t worth a lick if you aren’t willing to first offer grace to yourself and others.
I have succeeded and I have failed. God is continually teaching me about the art of hospitality, so I’ve been wanting to start this new category on the blog to share with all of you some of the things he’s been teaching me. Today I’d like to share with you how God has shown me that which hospitality to the world means a clean house and a perfect set of dishes, in the Kingdom of Heaven it’s not as much about your HOME as it is about your HEART.
Hospitality starts in the heart.
People can tell if you have a clean house and a cold heart, a perfectly clean table runner but horribly stained motives. There may be some you can fool, but most people will be able to tell if you don’t really want them around even though you have offered to host. And that is the LAST thing you want to communicate as a hostess. I have been guilty at times of making people feel burdensome to me, much to my chagrin. I have broken their trust, and it can take a long time to earn that back. When you host, make sure you are opening not just your home, but your heart.
Sometimes you might be offering to host as a way to serve the body or out of necessity, and in those situations, there will likely be times when you don’t really “feel like” hosting. But that’s not the point is it? I’m not saying “only host when you heart is in it”, because of course we know, our hearts lead us astray. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” But what I am saying is that to prepare your heart for hosting is possibly even more important than the preparations you make in your home.
Ask yourself: Are you prepared to welcome people into your home and life as freely as Christ has welcomed you? Are you aware of how much God has blessed you and willing to share those things with open hands as an act of worship to the LORD? Are you choosing to do this as an act of worship to the LORD, not as an outward act of “good works” to be seen and praised by men? Will you make a show with all your labors, or will you serve discretely and with humility so that those you serve might not even know what you have done for them?
These questions are hard. And I can tell you from personal experience that more often than not, something is wrong in my heart as I prepare to serve. It reminds me to walk in continual dependence upon my Savior, knowing that apart from Him, I can do nothing. (And certainly I can do nothing from a pure heart apart from Him.)
Has God given you the opportunity to serve by hosting this week? I encourage you to get to the heart of your motives. Repent of your sinful heart attitudes in prayer. Approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing that Christ, not you, will be the power and sufficiency you need to reach towards others in Gospel love through the act and service of hospitality.
So as you prepare your home, like I will be doing later today; as you pick up toys, lovingly prepare food, set out cups and plates and make sure there are no errant pieces of half chewed apple lying on the carpet—prepare your heart as well. Pray for those you are about to encounter. Ask the LORD to teach you to serve from a pure heart. Meditate on Philippians 2:3-11 (which has pretty much been my verse of the year for the past two years. I keep it above my kitchen sink where I see it at least 20 times a day…)
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” -Philippians 2:3-11
And have God’s grace for yourself. You won’t do it perfectly. Sometimes you’ll serve from the purest of spirits, and those you serve will glorify God because of the way he is working through your life. Other times you will be out of step with the Spirit, choosing instead to rely on your flesh, and you’ll fail in someway or other. But you can rest in God’s sufficiency despite your sin. There is so much peace in remembering His sovereignty over your life and the lives of those you are serving. Even as you fail them, you can be encouraged that God never will, and he has even allowed you to fail them, for some good purpose in their lives! As my Dad more than once said to me, “You aren’t big enough to mess up God’s plans.” What freeing news!
When you realize your mistake, turn. Repent. Then allow Him to pick you back up, and walk with Him in humility again. Choose to trust in Christ for your righteousness. Let Him love you where you are, and lead you to where He wants you to be.