Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Portrait of True Hospitality

The surest way to judge someone's hospitality gift is to take your touchy-feely littles over to their house. Do you know what I'm saying, mamas? The experience can be warm and wonderful, or nerve-wracking and disastrous. You might drive away from one house with the warm fuzzies, and from another horribly embarrassed and lecturing the little ones.

And afterwards, spankings handed out at home, you slump in a chair, wondering what in the world happened. You don't often have this kind of trouble with them; by golly, what was it today ?

Maybe you feel a tad guilty for disciplining them, because somehow, you feel partially responsible.

I'm not saying kids should be allowed to climb all over furniture and break knickknacks, making nuisances of themselves. It might happen occasionally with the under-four set, but it's never okay; discipline required.

Today we took a quick trip over to an aunt's house and stayed outside. We hadn't been there in quite some time, and we found they had new things in their yard, like a brick-bordered flowerbed and an eye-level windchime. My 4-and 6-year-old girls were touchy-feely, wanting to rattle the windchime a bit and walk along the brick border. I said no and pulled them away, but it took a few times for them to get the message. They weren't rough or doing any harm; they couldn't have ruined anything they touched or stepped on. I just wanted to prevent any disasters and set the tone.

One thing's for sure, they didn't understand my nervous vibes. 

Friends, this aunt and uncle care about their stuff. They don't want little hands checking out the lace on their curtains. There's no materialism in the sense that they buy every new thing--they live modestly in fact--but their house is filled with knickknacks purchased as gifts probably from their kids and grandkids. Nothing pricey, but there's always the nervous tension that comes when people who care about their stuff encounter little children.

I feel this tension the moment we arrive, and it steadily climbs. My kids are curious in that house, possibly because I have very few knickknacks, preferring a tidier look to my rooms. Neither my walls nor my tabletops are cluttered or busy.

As soon as we got into the van after the 20-minute visit, I was livid with the girls. My aunt hadn't seen them in quite a while and her impression was surely that they were testy, ornery girls, when in fact, I rarely have trouble with them in public places.

Once home, as the clocked ticked into the afternoon, I continued to teach, hang laundry, and wipe down bathrooms, but all the while I stewed and tried to get to the bottom of the whole behavioral nightmare and what part I might have played in it.

It really puzzled me, because in the last two weeks we've been to the AWANA leader's house twice, and both times it was a wonderful experience.

Do you know what Erica, the leader said, almost right away, the first time my 4-year-old reached to touch something?

"Oh, that's okay. They can touch anything; I don't care about my stuff."

She had few knickknacks, thank goodness, and what's more, she hadn't bothered to mop or vacuum before the two social events we were there for. There wasn't clutter, but since the house was also home to two frisky dogs, it definitely didn't have a clean appearance.

I marveled at this because I stress about my house and clean it right perfect before I have great cost to the whole family and to my time. I would probably have people over a lot more if I didn't feel a certain level of cleanliness was required. Clutter is not good, but do all the floors need mopped, and does the bathroom need to shine just so, as well as the wood?

For heaven's sake, no. Why can't I get that?

My whole family loves going to Erica's house, who is a wife and a mom to two teens, and a children's church coordinator. She loves my kids and she loves having us and many more families over for cookouts.

She says the same thing to every parent: "I don't care about my stuff."

And something happens to every parent upon hearing this. They relax. And the more relaxed Mom and Dad are, the less the kids get testy. The better they behave and the more they charm, because there's no tension in the air to mess everyone's emotions up.

The Lord opened my eyes to several things today, including my ugly pride.

I'm not exactly going to give my girls an apology for spanking them after the visit, because they did defy me, after all, about touching things.

But now I'm more keenly aware of the tension-over-stuff phenomena that occurs at some houses. And instead of going to those houses, I'll invite them to my house instead, if possible.

Here, we don't care about our stuff.

And in the future, this Momma is going to care less about cleanliness and concentrate instead on clearing clutter. I'm far more likely to extend hospitality when I only have clutter to attend to, and not three hours of cleaning on top of it.

Will people notice some dirt? Maybe. Will it make them think less of me? Probably not. Will they feel comfortable in my home, like they can relax, put their feet up and enjoy the fellowship? Absolutely.

What would Jesus do? 

He would care about people. The human angle always...never the material angle. He would have Christians gather together often, not just in the church building on Sunday, but in each other's homes, building one another up in Christ. Laughing, dining, loving, praying. Doing life together and bearing burdens.

Now, your turn. What have you learned about hospitality?

Ephesians 6:7
Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,


1 comment:

Beth said...

I think there are some simple things just like your friend said that can put people at ease. "I don't care about my things." I am learning to relax as we are house sitting this month. The first week was stressful but I am learning to relax. It helps me to remember that the wife told me that the grandchildren had spilled chocolate milk on the sofa.