How to Be Hospitable when Hospitality Isn’t Your Thing

embassy#1aYour Home Is an Embassy Part 2

By Barbara Rainey

For most of our marriage my husband and I have felt like failures when it comes to hospitality. Being hospitable has always loomed as unachievable for me because I am a task person, not a people person.  My husband is a people person, but at the end of his routine 10-hour workdays he’s usually in need of quiet…not conversation.

Part of my difficulty with God’s command, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it,” is my assumption of what this means for me and our family.

“Shoulds” have often ruled my thinking, as in:

-We should have a neighborhood gathering.

-I should be more friendly.

-I should want to have people over more often.

-I should be more prepared and organized so we can do impromptu dinners with others.

-We should have an ‘open door policy’ but I have no idea what that looks like.

-I should be more like so and so who does this so much better than I do.

I still fall prey to these self-condemnations, but I have recently accepted the facts about who I am and the limitations of our lifestyle. I understand that the details of our life are not out of God’s will but are His gifts to us and as the frame within which we practice our flavor of hospitality.

For example, when our kids were in school we had sleepovers and parties, certainly to encourage and celebrate our kids but also to welcome other children to our home. Knowing some of them might not know Jesus. Some might not know a two-parent family. Some might even experience a taste of God’s invitation to them while in our home. I realize now that was practicing hospitality in our home, our embassy.

When our kids were teens, we hosted parties at our house where we invited our friends who were great communicators to share their testimony with our kids’ friends from school. We only did this a handful of times, but it was another way we used our home to warmly welcome others with a taste of what matters most in life.

Another evening, we invited a friend for dinner. He was a missionary who showed the Jesus Film all around the world. Our motive was to expose our kids to someone of great faith. So our hospitality had multiple purposes: to welcome our friend for a home-cooked meal on the road, but it was also to give our children the opportunity to hear miraculous stories of what God was doing around the globe. We welcomed our friend but we also invited our children to a taste of God’s kingdom that was bigger than what they could possibly imagine. Hospitality is for your own family too. Your home embassy is not just for those on the outside.

embassy#2a

And when it comes to neighbors, we haven’t failed as badly as we sometimes feel we have. Down the street we have a neighbor who is crippled and lives alone. My husband began to befriend him years ago. Dennis helped get him some training and then a job. During those years Lee was a regular guest at our annual Thanksgiving brunch; one year he even brought his niece and nephew. This was a different flavor of hospitality, but his joining our family was still a taste of God’s welcome of us.

A couple years ago on another street in our neighborhood, a woman I barely knew lost her husband. They were both in their 40s ,with a young son. Two other neighbors, who lived closer, to her jumped into her world and walked her through this hard season. I remember feeling guilty that I didn’t join them, but God reminded me He wanted them to care for her. Not me.

His plans for us are always individualized. I too often assume I should be doing the same thing He’s given others to do. Simple hospitality goes a long way in our modern world.  We are more isolated, more insulated, more afraid and more cluttered than ever before.

Practicing hospitality does require thinking of others, but I’d suggest that your first step be to surrender to Christ. Ask Him to direct your steps and open your eyes to what He has for you.

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Fix your eyes on Jesus, not on others. Listen to His voice. Accept your limitations and believe that God can and will guide you to those He wants you to influence for Him.

Start with those who you are around in your regular routine. Are there foreign exchange students in your kids’ school or at the local college? What about inviting your kids’ teachers over for dinner, or the principal, or coworkers?

The possibilities are many, but the key is listening to God’s leading for YOU.

Hospitality will be different for everyone, which is a great relief. You don’t have to be like us or anyone else. But I would boldly suggest you do need to be open and willing to try.

May your home be an welcoming embassy for the King!

If you’d like to hear more about using your home as an embassy, tune in to this week’s FamilyLife Today broadcast to hear Dennis and Barbara share about their home. 

5ways.embassy1Download/print this free PDF for a little reminder throughout your day.

Part 3: An Open Door Policy

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6 thoughts on “How to Be Hospitable when Hospitality Isn’t Your Thing”

  1. I struggle with my spouse over this issue honestly. I am an extreme extrovert, and my wife is an extreme introvert. I am more of the evangelistic and outreach type, and my wife is more of the intercession and prophetic type. My wife feels unsafe bringing new people into the home that she doesn’t have deep relationships with, even people I work with. In our 15 years of marriage this has been one of the more challenging issues of our relationship. We used to argue about this alot, but I finally came to terms that she has boundaries that I have to respect, even though I feel sometimes unfaithful to the scripture about entertaining angels. I grew up in a family that took in single mothers, battered women, pregnant teens who didn’t want to get abortions, and even troubled teens… we as a family would pray with them and minister in the Holy Spirit to them. My dream was to do the same with my kids. Now that I have kids that are between the ages of 8-13 I often feel sad I am not able to give them what I had as a kid. Lately, she has gone away for a few trips for her work and I was with the kids alone, and I felt that this was my opportunity to invite people I have been reaching out to over. I had several Muslims I had prayed for to be healed and Jesus healed them amazingly that I have wanted to invite over for a long time, so since my wife was gone (she did not agree to ever inviting them over when she was at home)… I felt like I was free to do so. So I prepared a big meal, cleaned the house spotless, and prepared my kids to be ready to minister as a family together to these two Muslim seekers. They came over and it was incredible and my kids loved it. IN the end, one of the Muslim seekers went home and talked to his wife the entire night about Jesus. My wife called me and found out that I had invited my Muslim neighbors over and she yelled at me on the phone. I don’t understand why she felt unsafe when she wasn’t there, she usually doesn’t invite people over because of the fact that she is an introvert. So she didn’t have to be there and it didn’t bother her introvertedness. Sometimes I feel like she wants me to respect who she is and her boundaries, but doesn’t respect the fact that I am dying inside in who I am. I LOVE HOSPITALITY… it was my entire childhood…. now I can’t even experience it when she is gone.

  2. In our twenty-eight years of marriage my husband and I have helped several family members who needed a place to stay. Whether it was a divorce or separation, we’ve opened our home to them and their kids. I do love them, but I feel like we never have any privacy. My mother-in-law has been living with my husband and I for ten years since she separated and she is the perfect tenant. Nevertheless, I feel like I can’t have company because she either hides out in her room or keeps peeking out to see if everyone is gone. I appreciate that she is giving us our privacy, but I feel like we’re on a timer. My brother in-law is also staying her now; six moths now. I feel like I’m suffocating and want to drive away, but I know I’m being selfish. My husband was feeling very stressed until (toda) he finally started looking at the situation differently. He said this is the Christian thing to do- to help someone in need, plus it’s also a trial which I feel I’m flunking. We have an eleven year old son and I feel I can’t invite friends or parents because I already have a house ful. Any suggestions?

    1. barbara rainey

      Thank you for writing. Your situation is a challenging one which I have not faced so I don’t have specific advice for you. What I can say is you and your husband need to keep your marriage and your family w your 11 year old son the priority. I would suggest you and your husband have a weekly date night for just the two of you. It will give you time to focus on each other, your marriage and have private conversations about whatever you want. Taking a weekly date night will protect your marriage, help you talk regularly and honestly about your circumstances and model for everyone in your home this your marriage is most important. I hope this helps.

  3. joanne thompson

    BRAVO…AMEN…it’s not the form (one way to do it)..its the function (to love)….The other day I took a sandwich size zip lock bag of 4 homemade cookies to our reclusive long-time divorced neighbor. .I heard she was about to take a long rode trip. Thought she’d like a snack for travels. when I rang the doorbell she first looked through front window to greet me. Then came to front door with it only slightly ajar…. Her threshold was the place for that moment. She took the cookies andthanked me….I Told her we would b praying for her trip.

  4. Awesome. Thank you for sharing this because I could totally relate. I’m a task person and my husband is a people person. I would feel stressed out whenever he wanted to have someone over. One thing that I got stressed about was what I would make for the meal. Would it turn out okay? Would it be enough. Now I just buy the food if I’m feeling stressed.
    Glad there is someone out there who feels like I do.
    Bless you!

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