Let’s play a game.
I’ll say a word and you tell me what pops into your head first. Ready?
Here are things that come to my mind: cleaning the house, setting the table, breaking out the real place mats and napkins, hours of careful cooking, inviting people over, using the good china, providing a cozy environment, lighting candles, serving others in tangible ways.
I’m not the best cook and sometimes the floor needs vacuuming, but I like to think of my house as welcoming, open, and hospitable. But how does my life display hospitality? I am busy. I am scheduled. I do not have time for surprises or interruptions. I have a plan and feel terrible if I do not accomplish my list of things to do each day. A good day to me is a productive day. So what happens when a friend calls who needs to talk? Do I put aside my to-do list or ignore the phone call? What happens when a patient at work needs lots of extra time? Do I love them well or do I roll my eyes, constantly recalculating how to make up this time later on? How do I handle the unplanned?
While thinking about hospitality in this way – I’ve discovered just how inhospitable my life is.
What if I did something totally different and defined hospitality as leaving room for others in my life?
I want to be more open and less scheduled. More available and less programmed. I want to handle the unexpected, the urgent, the surprising, and the interruptions with grace. As Henri Nouwen said near the end of his life, “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered the interruptions were my work.” Fellowship. Community. Talking about life’s blessings and troubles. That’s where true ministry and hospitality bloom.
I want to values others more and value my own time and expected schedule less. “The delight of embracing time rather than things is that we are free from the bondage of a schedule. Gifts can happen whenever they come, and we are not bound to certain times for certain experiences. Furthermore, if we freely give our time, we will harvest it in greater abundance.” (Marva Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, p. 122)
I want my life to be an offering of hospitality greater than the most gourmet meal or the most beautiful model home!
After all, Jesus exemplifies a life of hospitality despite constant interruptions. “Jesus… lived with the clearest and highest purpose. Yet he veered and strayed from one interruption to the next, with no apparent plan in hand other than his single, overarching one: get to Jerusalem and die. Otherwise, his days, as far as we can figure, were a series of zigzags and detours, apparent whims and second thoughts, interruptions and delays, off-the-cuff plans, spur-of-the-moment decisions, leisurely meals, serendipitous rounds of storytelling.” (Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, p. 78)
What about you? How do you handle interruptions? How is hospitality displayed in your life?
Proverbs 11:24 “The world of the generous gets larger and larger/ the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” (Msg)