Does it really make a difference if you invite someone to meet you at a restaurant or invite them to your home?
Times have changed. I remember being a kid and going to the Evans' home for Sunday lunch; all the families brought food, and chattery moms crowded in kitchen with dripping spoons, casserole dishes, and kids of assorted ages to blend into a beautiful collage in my memory. Dads were drawn by sounds of Sunday football games to the living room, where ties came off and laughter was put on. We ate on paper plates and played until somebody's family got too tired and grouchy to stay any longer. Never would've worked in a restaurant!
Today in our culture and in many others, hospitality has moved to public places, mostly restaurants. When people come through town, they're less likely to stay overnight on a sofa bed or stop in for a pot roast. We're more likely to text when we get near the by-pass and meet at Starbucks, so our trip agenda isn't messed up too much.
But, yes, it really does make a difference when we invite guests into our homes. When someone comes into our home we pull aside a curtain (literally AND figuratively) so we see more of how we live and who we are. Our transparency makes it more likely that our relationship will go further. It's easier to get "real" with people when we sit on the floor or take our shoes off or spill on someone's carpet and get forgiven. Yes, spending time in each other's homes makes us more like family than a friend to cross paths with, and I've found it's true around the world.
When you go to someone's home you learn "their smell." Do you know what I mean? When I was a kid, I always wondered how our house smelled to other families. I knew their family smells, and they even brought a little of it to Sunday school with them or when they slept over. I still wonder "how we smell." ;) This sounds a little strange, even for a blog! I hope ours is like fresh bread mixed with cinnamon spice and clean towels and good coffee and open windows. When you meet "out," you can't learn what makes the fragrance of a family.
When our missionaries were in town last week, most of their meetings were held at the church or in public places, but we fit in a late night meal in our home with one couple, and I was so glad. They loved what I cooked and had seconds. They met our dog. I stuck my feet in the couch pillows while we talked ... like now. And they learned we love our porch and our small kitchen and warm things.
I first recognized the value of receiving people into homes when I was in South America and was invited into a home of a missionary family. I'll never forget the way it smelled and the warmth of the friendship and the bond we forged. When I found out that very house was damaged in the Chilean earthquake over a week ago, that home of hospitality rose quickly in my memory where it was etched deeply the night I had been there over 20 years ago.
We may be reluctant to open our homes because we're worried about what we don't have, ashamed of what we do have, aren't sure how to use what we have, aren't confident in our abilities, don't have a show on Food network, don't decorate like Pottery Barn, want to protect our privacy, or aren't sure what we'll do with people ... but it's so worth learning and trying and serving. 1 Peter 4:9, Romans 12:13, and Hebrews 13:2 all challenge us to practice hospitality.
1 Peter 4:9 ~ "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."
I think that starts right where we live, right at home. Will you do it? Buy some paper plates. Run your vacuum cleaner. Light a candle. Make spaghetti. And if you're ever passing through my town, I'll put on a pot of coffee and stick my feet in the couch. :)
What keeps you from opening your home to others?