Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some Hospitality Roots

Sharing over at MomHeart

For about four years we lived in less than 500 square feet (which was huge compared to the 250 square feet the year before that). It was cozy and cramped but we made it work. People living in New York City are used to tight quarters so we just went ahead and hosted bible studies, community groups, showers and dinners right there in our little home. 
To make things even more enjoyable, our apartment had no elevator and we lived several flights up. Strollers, groceries, suitcases, pregnant bellies... I can't tell you how many times I stood panting on the landings between floors. When guests came over we'd find them at the door standing breathless from their ascent. 
The bathroom was so small we couldn't bend over the sink while brushing our teeth, and had to adapt a sideways tilt position. The toilet and bathtub were both miniature, kind of like they belonged in a doll house.
Somehow, nestled into this tiny apartment, a guest bedroom had been created by adding a wall at the end of the living room. It fit a twin bed and a dresser, and had a little window overlooking trash heaps below in the "courtyard."
That apartment and that room taught me invaluable lessons.
Spare bedrooms are a rarity in the City.  Over the course of our years in that apartment, the room was almost always in use. 
Friends, strangers, invited, or not. 
Some stayed the weekend, some six months. 
Some closed the toilet lid, others preferred it open. 
Some cooked us dinner, others asked when it would be ready.
Some liked to sit and chat in the living room, some required absolute privacy. 
Some left beautiful notes of thanks, others left bed bugs.
When you open up your home you will inevitably experience discomfort.  You might get frustrated, and you might consider asking someone to leave (or you may actually do it, as became necessary with one of our dear tenants.)
But you will also be blessed by the joys of hospitality in ways that you would have never known if you hadn't opened your doors.
Lessons Learned
You don't need a big house, even for overnight guests, just a few square feet and a willing heart. 
If you are hosting for longer periods of time it's okay to lay out a few ground rules. This will make everyone involved a lot happier. We had a list posted on our fridge with a handful of things that helped our house run more smoothly. 
You don't need a kitchen table for dinner guests. We found little trays on laps in the living room worked just great. 
Prepare to have your routine interrupted. 
Prepare to share your food and belongings. 
Prepare to wipe mud off the carpet. 
Prepare to be blessed by the way people share their lives and hearts. 
Prepare to fall in love with an open home, and embrace the periods of respite in between.
People Over Preference
One phrase I said to myself over and over again during that period, and still do, is People Over Preference. The people and relationships God places in my life are exponentially more important that my petty preferences regarding my home, order, and cleanliness. I will choose the person over the preference, and pray for a patient heart. 
I recognize that not everyone is in a season of life where it's possible to have long-term guests in your home. But I think most of us can be praying for the Lord to bring opportunities that allow us to practice sacrificial hospitality, the kind that can be uncomfortable at times, but sanctifying. 
The Ultimate Act
The hospitality that Paul encouraged in scripture typically meant inviting strangers into your home to save them from expensive and dangerous lodging alternatives. The Christians of the day would definitely have experienced some discomfort.
As a believer in Christ,  I've experienced the ultimate act of hospitality from my Savior: adoption into His family as a daughter, and permanent residency in his home. I pray this deep gospel confidence influences the way I display hospitality towards others.
Part of me misses those cramped, crazy days, though I'm extremely thankful for a few more square feet now.  I look forward to new seasons of hospitality as the Lord expands my understanding of living a life with open doors.