“When we share our home, our table, our lives, things happen that play into all dimensions. I am inspired by the connections between the ordinary and the sacred. As we welcome others into a safe place, things we can’t necessarily see or touch, lap at the spiritual, connecting hearts and minds in ways that tell of God’s love for us.” – Margie Haack, “Hospitality Notes” – Notes from Toad Hall, Issue #2, 2012
Once again, a sermon has challenged me in ways that really push me to the edges of my comfort zone. I left church today feeling not only convicted that the message was right, but challenged to consciously and intentionally embrace a radical brand of hospitality, and it is something that is not easy for me…at all.
Some back story:
I did not experience, during my growing up years, an open door policy in our home for guests. There were social gatherings…mostly in the form of periodic sabbath meals (scrupulously planned and executed), family gatherings, and some afternoon visiting that is (inevitably) part of the life of a pastor’s family. When I was old enough to spend afternoons with friends, and had the permission to do so, I almost always wanted to spend the time in their homes. To have them in my home was fairly often a stressful occasion. It wasn’t particularly fun (for me), drinks were not usually offered (which embarrassed me), snacks were never offered (which also embarrassed me), and I often felt this shadow of trouble looming over me…one which would as frequently as not come to fruition after my friends went home, at which time I would be in trouble for whatever infraction I (we) had committed. Being in trouble was nothing new. I was always in trouble, but to feel that cloud hanging over me when I was hanging with friends was frustrating and infuriating. This was not an environment that I enjoyed, much less an environment in which I wanted to socialize with my friends. Is it any wonder that, when I realized this wasn’t the environment in many friends’ homes, that I preferred to go there?
The sermon today was not the first time I have felt wholly convicted about what I want my home to be. My husband and I have talked often and long about our desire to have our home be a warm, inviting, and comfortable place for friends and family. We have talked at length about my desire (and his need) to have an open door policy on our home. We want (and he needs) to gather here often with friends, to minister to others through food & drink, cigars & conversation, golf & games, music & movies, laughter & tears. Hell, I need it too.
Perhaps more importantly, though, we both want (and I need) to have our home be a place our child (and eventually children) want to be. I want him (them) to want to be here, to want to bring their friends here, to want to open our home to others for parties, study groups, movie nights, sleep overs, play dates, pick up golf, jam sessions, impromptu dinners, book clubs, and any number of other activities that we have yet to experience. We want (and I need) for our child(ren) to know that they…and their friends…can come to us anytime for anything, talk to us about whatever is on their hearts, can call us whenever they need help, can know that we are always available to them, because no matter what, we love them.
The hard part is feeling (knowing?) that I’m working against biology here. I am hardwired to want my home to be my safe haven, impenetrable by outsiders, my warm nest in the midst of a cold world. When my husband suggests we have a party, my natural reaction is resistance…not because I don’t want to be with our friends, but because “I have too much to do, the house is a mess, I haven’t cleaned the bathrooms, there’s a pile of laundry in the living room, there are dishes in the sink, toys are everywhere, I need to practice, I’m tired…” So he asks when, and I say when the house is clean, and straight, and we’ve finished this, that or the next thing…” SO not the way I want to be, but I so often let the introverted part of me win.
Why do you think it’s called radical hospitality? It’s radical because it is outside of our comfort zones. It’s radical because it’s not about having a perfect house, perfect food, and perfectly planned activities. It’s radical because we are called to throw caution to the wind, to invite our friends…our fellow sojourners in this life…to eat, to drink, to be merry, and to really commune together. That is so hard for me, but I am convicted that it is what I am called to do. It is what we are all called to do.
The best compliment we ever received was from a college aged nephew, who remarked to us on one of his many trips to our home that he loved coming there because it was like going home. High praise indeed, and praise that I have not lived up to in the radical manner that God has called me to. Today my conviction is renewed, and starting today, I am striving once again toward that goal.