With a wide smile, I lifted my hand in farewell to the rough-and-tumble SUV, tires lifting and falling on the potholes and stones. The family within had bunked with us for the good part of a week, saturating our home with laughing shrieks and extra bare feet running in the dust. All told, we totalled 3-4 adults and eight children, occasionally more.
I was exhausted. You see, I come from a long line of hospitality queens; my parents should consider installing a revolving door due to all their hosting. Determined to make a welcoming, fun-filled week for my guests, I’d carefully planned out meals and a calendar dotted with diversion.
But hosting in Africa, like most activities here, requires a curious and occasionally elaborate amount of extra steps: keeping a water filter working constantly to maintain a supply of potable water, strategically packing a small refrigerator and freezer, and making the rounds through maddening African traffic to the grocery store. I don’t need to use any cans to cook, but that means everything is from scratch, from salsa to enchilada sauce to tortillas. And, power was out for about 20% of the week. Water ran out Monday night for awhile. But, still, needs were met, and even more, everyone had a great deal of fun. The introverted side of me had melted into a bit of an internal puddle, but having everyone else in great spirits was worth it.
I suppose it hit me when I realized that I’d had, zero deep conversations with my friend. Yummy meals? Check. Fun activities? Check. Clean house? Well, we’d get there. But I’d only sat down near my friend once. I’d juggled all the hospitality balls—and yet failed to create enough margin to savor their company. Didn’t Martha (no, not that Martha. The one in the Bible!) do that for a famous guest once?
Truth be told, I wanted to be that house with the great food, the “such a fun time!” and “Can we please go back?” labels. So my mission to love my guests had occasionally, subtly twisted to focus on, well, me.
Isn’t that the problem with elaborate hospitality? There’s the fun and artistry of creating a beautiful space, tempting flavors, special touches that sparkle with intentionality reminiscent of Christ’s “prepared place.” Still, sometimes I find myself yearning to shift the spotlight from meaningfully loving my guests to me.
Letting my gifts shine does not need to be a source of guilt. I think God delights in our own pleasure when we create, love well, and glitter in the ways we’re made.
But yes, feeding my ego is something for which I need to repent. Making everything “just right” had surpassed the original goal: my home being a place of Christ-ward love, not just outwardly, but from my heart. My guests probably would have been okay with less elaborate meals, some quiet afternoons, and a little more heart-healthy hospitality.