Crispy green celery sticks stuffed with crunchy peanut butter. That’s what I remember from the meal. I don’t recall what else we ate because, I guess, it wasn’t that important. What I remember is how Barbara, my dear friend, made me feel. She’d prepared the meal and put our heaping plates before us—but the sustenance I took in was far more than food.
Everyone needs a meal when the stomach is hungry. But there is so much more to the open door and table than the food we eat. I was hungry for peace. In her home, I could relax and breathe.
Minutes before I arrived, I’d felt such heavy darkness and despair in my own little home, only five minutes from Barbara’s. Hopelessness smothered me.
I brought no contributions to the table other than my familiar companions: shock, deep sadness, and fear, to name a few. I can still see myself sitting at that table in that kitchen, in that neighborhood in Mobile, Alabama. I don’t think I talked about my problems. Just being there, enjoying a change of scenery and watching life actually going on around me—that’s what helped. To hear, “Pass the salt”, or to talk about a new recipe or the weather was consoling. To know that everyone’s life hadn’t stopped just because I felt that mine had. Somehow I was surprised that those things helped.
The hopelessness dimmed when I crossed the threshold into her warm home. My circumstances hadn’t changed but engaging with others took my mind off of my despair long enough for me to think about other things.
My husband had left days before. Or maybe it was weeks. He walked away from my young son and me. He walked right out of our door, but not before he reminded me to bring the garbage cans in because a hurricane was coming. *
I was pregnant with our second child. It would take me years to recover from the horrendous experience that began when he left.
Thus the story of the “the open door” and its impact on my life. I credit Barbara and others for giving me a love and passion for the ministry of hospitality. I truly hope you’ve experienced serving others this way. And I hope you have received biblical hospitality. I really hope you see how valuable it is.
Hospitality in its simplest form expresses sincere care for another person. While you’re with them, they’re more important than you are. It can look like sitting on the sofa sharing coffee or a glass of cold water. It may be ordering pizza and eating on paper plates. You can offer hospitality in a coffee shop or on a park bench.
The food is not the most important, nor is the presentation. Your kindness, your willingness to give of your time to engage and listen; that’s what’s important.
What if a full laundry basket overflows on the sofa? That’s okay. Now your guests know you’re a normal person in the middle of a busy life. They may even offer to fold. I can promise you if the friends or strangers in your home are tasked with helping you out, they will feel more relaxed and welcomed. If you have it all together or seem too perfect, they’ll be less likely to invite people into their homes, especially you! Show them that they are important enough for you to hit pause on regular chores.
I intentionally made a point of having people in our home during major repairs and construction. The times when the refrigerator was shoved across the room, or when we had huge holes in our sheetrock and sub-flooring was under our feet. Even with the utter dishevelment of our home, we were able to enjoy our togetherness.
We are Christ’s Body—His hands and feet. We are the ones with doors and tables and food, and we have the ability to encourage folks around us. Some people in our communities are lonely. Some are fearful. Who might we bless by being the hands and feet of Jesus?
Why do I share my story from so long ago? I want to fan the flame of hospitality in the Body of Christ. I want you to step out of your comfort zone and connect in a meaningful way with someone new. Be on the lookout for someone who’s dying to know the love and acceptance we’ve experienced in Christ.
Share what you have with the saints, so they lack nothing; take every opportunity to open your life and your home to others. Romans 12:13
*I hope to never dishonor others while being transparent about my life. My former spouse and I were eventually on good terms.