My husband and I are pastors. Multiple times a week, we host people in our home. People of all different backgrounds, religious beliefs (or lack thereof), social statuses, etc. We’ve expanded our worldview and our experience of God just by seeing the faces and experiences of the people we’ve interacted with sitting in our home, sharing a meal and a glass of wine, finding common ground with those we might not have known had we not stretched out of our boxes.
My husband is a natural people person, a total extrovert, a little unorganized and spontaneous, who would be with people every day all day and into the wee hours of the morning…if he hadn’t married me, a tried and true introvert to the core of my being, who would probably cozy up on the couch with a fantastic book, a smelly-good candle and a hot cup of tea…every night if I could. Oh, and I love order and consistency and perfection too! We’re a perfect match, I swear.
In our early years of marriage, my husband was subject to my crazy ways. He once spontaneously invited a friend over to our unclean home without my knowing, and I tore into him like a crazy lioness protecting her cubs. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then.
We’ve taught each other so much. And he’s opened my experiences with people in ways I wouldn’t naturally lean. While there’s nothing wrong with processing the world through the inner workings of the mind and while there’s nothing wrong with excellence, I have noticed that in order to carry out gospel in my life, I can’t sit at home alone forever. Interactions with humans are necessary. And I certainly can’t put expectations of perfection on imperfect people, including myself.
As I was thinking of how I could contribute to this month, themed as “selfless,” I examined my world and realized that, while I’m far from reaching some pinnacle of learnedness, one of the most “selfless” lessons I’ve adopted in life is how to be hospitable as Andrea, how to open the central nucleus of my life (my home) to others, as a perfectionistic introvert with a little attitude.
I wanted to share some practical ideas of how to host hospitably if you aren’t naturally wired that way. 6 little ideas to find God in people while you sit down at the tables in your lives.
Just do it – Intentionality will change your life. This is easy to say and hard to do. But intentionally making the choice to be a hospitable person and open your home – your safe place, your quiet existence – to people – who are sometimes questionable, oftentimes messy and always more talkative than me – is truly the most rewarding and growth-inducing thing I’ve ever done. I’ve found life and depth in God in the person sitting across from me more times than I can count. Press into the tension and anxiety, don’t run from it. Good things are often hard to come by.
Start small & don’t get overwhelmed. If you aren’t used to hosting large gatherings or even small gatherings in your home, it’s ok to start small. You have to start somewhere. Maybe a large-scale gathering would be way too much, but coffee at your breakfast table is doable. You can do a lot with a little in terms of what you offer your guests. There’s really no need to prepare 4-course meals or have napkin rings (For real, does anyone use napkin rings?). Keeping plans simple keeps you from getting anxious if something goes undone. Ask for help if you need it.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. If your floors aren’t sparkly, there’s a hair in the spaghetti and your kid pees all over the toilet seat as the guests arrive, it’s going to be ok! In my experience, a little real life goes a long way. No one wants to sit in a perfect home (well maybe rich Aunt Wanda does, but she’s the exception, not the rule), much less reveal their messy lives to you, if they feel threatened by the perfection reeking around them. Authenticity and humility are what people really want – they’re the breeding ground for vulnerability and life-change to happen. Focus on investing in your guests, not entertaining them.
Communicate with your guests. If dinner starts at 6, then let your guests know. If no dinner is served, then let your guests know. If you need help with a couple of sides, ask for it! Communicating your expectations (though you might not term them expectations) will keep you from being disappointed or frustrated at yourself if they aren’t met – and will give your guests the parameters from which to respond and lend their hands.
Prepare conversations topics/questions ahead of time. If you’re an introvert like me, then you know that conversation can be a source of anxiety. Moments of awkward silence can seemingly last forever and filling the silence can feel like a mountain in front of you. If conversation isn’t your forte, then preparing conversation topics ahead of time is a great idea. Even making it an activity for your evening – throw topics of conversation in a bowl and take turns picking. Focus on deep conversation and flow with the conversation – it doesn’t have to feel like an interview.
Recharge after guests leave. We all know how exhausting hosting can be when it’s not your natural way to function. Give yourself a few minutes to put your feet up, process the conversation and how things went, and don’t overplay things in your mind 100 times. Leave it on the couch and move on.
I hope these ideas give you courage to reach out into the vast unknown of hosting people at your table. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself, about the beautiful, unique people who sit in front of you, and about the God who created us all for community. Don’t run from hosting because it’s hard, press into it because it’s so so so worth it.
Photo by Brooke Lark