31 Jan Hospitality and a Messy House
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of hospitality is from my growing up years, when my mom would announce, “Company’s coming! Time to clean the house!”. We would then slave all day making the house look like no one lived in it. When our family agreed to host a college intern for a summer, I wasn’t considering it an act of hospitality; our goal in having her live with us was to have a chance to form a relationship, which would give credibility to speak truth and help disciple.
Kairos summer internships are an opportunity Grace provides college-aged students to work within a ministry area at the church. Interns also attend classes four times a week, often led by our pastoral staff. The program is rigorous, fast paced, and has high expectations. Both girls who have lived with us have been exceedingly bright, engaging, and passionate. They are also observant and curious: if you have ever wondered what it would be like to have a stranger in your home watching how you parent, relate to your spouse, and spend your time and money, host a college intern in your house for the summer. Talk about feeling like you are under a microscope!
“When our family agreed to host a college intern for a summer, I wasn’t considering it an act of hospitality; our goal in having her live with us was to have a chance to form a relationship, which would give credibility to speak truth and help disciple.”
We kick off our first night by sitting with our intern and filling her in on how our family operates, and then invite them to ask questions and make observations along the way. We see it as a chance to let them see how other families function. It also gives us the chance to be held accountable–are we really, truly living what we believe? Having three kids also gives us plenty of awkward moments to work through together. Our kids think the intern is a personal playmate or new older sibling, so we find ourselves saying things like, “Don’t go through her things” and “Stop asking her to play Xbox, she has to go to work.” My personal favorite is, “Don’t sit on the intern’s face.” True story.
After the three-week mark, the newness wears off and the imperfections on both sides emerge. It is an adjustment for everyone, and extra doses of grace have to be extended. Right around Fourth of July week, the interns crash. The reality of the pace, the expectations, and the work weighs heavy, and both of our girls spent that particular week sleeping and in solitude, trying to recover. Our best conversations usually kicked off at 10:00pm, so we have to make sure a few nights a week we make ourselves available to listen and offer advice or encouragement. Coffee in the afternoon also helps.
It’s messy and uncomfortable—it’s also one of the most rewarding and exciting things our family has ever done. If the idea to host an intern was pitched to me as a hospitality gig, then I would have definitely passed. I had a narrow view of hospitality–pillows fluffed, a hot meal, well-behaved kids–other people are way better at that than I am. My guests are lucky if I push the Legos out of the way and wipe the toothpaste out of the sink. My narrow view of hospitality equated it with entertaining.
“It’s messy and uncomfortable—it’s also one of the most rewarding and exciting things our family has ever done.”
If I view hospitality as a skill or talent, then it is easy for me to dismiss myself from the biblical expectation that I should open my home to other people. Whether I feel like hospitality is my thing or not, the Bible is clear that I need to practice it:
“Do not neglect showing hospitality to strangers … ” Hebrews 13:2
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
“Seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:13
Hospitality is not an event or a skill. It’s an attribute of a believer. God has given us so much in Jesus, and as His people set apart for Him, we are to steward the grace He has given us to all people. We open our home, not for people to see what we have, but to share what we have. The food, the place to sleep at night, are just the entry points to the real purpose. Encouragement, discipleship, counsel, connecting, making memories—all these can happen over a home-cooked meal or a styrofoam container of leftovers. When we share what we have, life change and relationships that we treasure are the result. What matters is that we offer our homes and all we have in obedience to the God that gave all He had so that we can be in relationship with Him. What better way for people to see the difference Jesus has made in me than to let them see how I live my life?
When her kids were little, Molly lived an organic vegetable garden and homemade laundry detergent life. In her current season, she lives a Little Caesars and Round-Up life, and only the promises of Jesus have made her okay with that. She loves learning, coffee and hanging out with her husband. Molly attends our Pelham campus.