Tuesday we had a large group of people over for a BBQ in our backyard. It was truly the perfect Minnesota summer evening. Dry, 78 degrees, miraculously mosquito-free. (for a minute I looked around thinking Jesus must be coming back).
It was a delightful evening of good conversation and laughter, but it’s not like everything was perfect. John burned most of the brats and 7 (yes 7!) people cancelled within an hour and a half of our start time.
It’s not like everything is always coordinated. I’ve been known to use a hodgepodge of leftover holiday paper napkins. Other times we’ve planned for outside but at the last minute rain has blown in or it’s been so hot and muggy we’ve had to frantically un-set and re-set for Plan B, everyone preferring to crowd in our small, but dryer, cooler house. And I don’t
always usually handle this well. Often I’m just a stressed out hot mess about change and flexibility.
All that to say, it’s really not about your place or plates. It’s about you – your attitude, the grace of your home – your arms open wide in welcome for whoever shows up on your doorstep.
This is a harvest table my mom found in a barn. It’s the table my non-handy husband refinished for me for our first anniversary, thirty years ago tomorrow. An act of love.
Around it our family and friends, new acquaintances and old, have gathered to share laughter, ideas, stories of pain and joy, glimpses of God’s faithfulness.
Tables can be sacred places. Stained or scarred, messy with spilled milk and cheerios, or set with china and crystal. We come together to be nourished. To offer bread and casseroles and words of comfort and encouragement. We are present to each other. We learn from embracing our stories with God together.
Inviting people to our table is an act of grace and hospitality, not performance.
Here are a few things I’ve been learning as we’ve gathered around the table…
1. Show up not perfect, but authentic. Yes, you want people to feel like you care enough to prepare for them, and make them feel special, but hold plans lightly. It’s ok if you have a tiny home and mismatched furniture. It’s ok to call an audible and move inside when it’s too hot. It’s ok if something burns. Everyone can relate. Inviting people into your messy life will assure them that it’s safe to take off their mask and be who they are.
2. It’s not about you. Ask good questions. Be interested and enter into the story of others. Set the bar high for your conversation. “Small minds talk about people. Average minds talk about things. Great minds talk about ideas.”
3. Put people to work. If you’re in a new environment don’t you feel more comfortable with something in your hands? Guests (especially introverts) feel more comfortable if they have a task to do. Having someone pour water or dress a salad will help you out, and probably put them more at ease.
4. Invite all kinds of people to your table. People from different cultures. People with differing points of view. People from different generations. Expand your world.
5. Stop to pray before people arrive. Pray that each person who enters your home would feel loved and valued. Pray that the conversation around your table would be honoring to God, and that together all might be nourished by His presence.
So….here’s an idea.
If you’re part of a family, gather and talk about some people you’d like to invite to dinner who you don’t know well. Ask your kids who they’d like to have. Brainstorm some questions you’d like to ask to get to know them better. Have your kids help prepare.
If you’re a young couple, invite some older couples you admire over. Ask them about what experiences have taught them the most.
If you’re single, invite some people over who might broaden your world, or be potential mentors. Ask them what they’re reading, what challenges they’re facing, how their perception of God has been shaped…
“Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1-2
What are your thoughts on hospitality? Your experiences?