Hi, my name is Amber, and I'm inhospitable. ("Hi, Amber.")
I read this post recently and was reminded again of an ongoing struggle for me: hospitality.
Often when I tell people I'm not a hospitable person, they are surprised. I did write a book about throwing parties, but that does not a hospitable person make. Hospitality isn't about cooking good food or having an immaculately decorated home or having a cleaning regime up to Mary Poppins' standard. And therein lies the problem: I confuse hospitality with perfection.
Growing up, I lived in a very neat house. I've mentioned it before, but my parents are hardworking people. The author of Proverbs could have said, "Look to the Brays, you sluggard!" in place of the Proverbial Ant. Even when they are tired and busy, they always make time to do the dishes, tidy up, and put everything in its place.
My problem is that I inherited their standards but not their diligence. Alas, I am lazy when compared to my parents. From the outside, this might not seem true. I keep a generally clean home - though I would compare it to Holden Caulfield's roommate in The Catcher in the Rye - he looks like a pretty together guy, but when you look closely at his razor, you see it's rusted and dull. If you look at my home from afar, it looks nice. But if you get up close, you see cheerios on the floor, dust on the mantelpiece, and Tower of Pisa-esque stacks of laundry.
(I'm not kidding about the dust. One time, a friend of ours was over and, looking down at the top of our entertainment center in our sunken living room, exclaimed, "Is that dust?!" upon seeing the thick blanket nestled there. Curse you, tri-level!)
Mike and I host small group and dinner every Monday at our house, and I'm embarrassed to admit how much of a struggle that is for me. I start worrying about it on Wednesday. I get itchy palms on Friday. And by Sunday, I've got the sweats - all because of the worry that I won't have time to whip up a perfectly clean home by Monday night. (Despite the fact that lovely Mikey ends up doing much of the cleaning himself. What a guy! Huzzah! Bravo!)
But my itchy palms let a negative attitude creep in - that small group is an imposition, rather than an opportunity to welcome others, share with them, bless them, and be blessed by them in return.
In retrospect, I see how silly it is. I'm always so encouraged and happy when my guests leave. I know that our little band of friends is helping one another along through the difficulties in life. And not once have they pointed out my imperfections...Well, OK, just that once.
I'm learning that hospitality is about our heart - our warmth and love - not about keeping a perfect home. If instead of focusing so much on the toys on the floor and fingerprints on the window, I rather focused on the state of my heart - on creating a place where people can be refreshed and encouraged, just think of the difference it could make not only to others, but also to myself.
"He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25