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Imperfect Hospitality by Heidi Strong

I love to have people over, whether for a meal or just for a coffee. I love choosing what we will eat, choosing how to lay the table, and even prepping the menu and the food. Well… Most times!! You see, I like it when I decide who is coming over and when. I can even handle the impromptu, especially when it's organised by me, but when my husband springs a surprise visitor on me or when he’s invited someone that I don’t think we should be having over, or even when he invites in a complete stranger, then I’m not such a happy chappie. The brakes are suddenly applied and the reasons for why it can’t happen seem to tumble out of my mouth.

Sadly, I think it’s a bit of a control thing. I prefer it when I’m doing all the inviting, when it’s MY choice of time, MY choice of food and people and at MY convenience. Definitely when it's within MY boundaries. I know, I know, the control thing is even screaming louder now! Honestly it’s mostly because the thought of being inconvenienced doesn’t seem appealing, and so I can get quite uppity (as my husband calls it) when he randomly invites people over. In my defense, I get over it quickly and then do it well and with a good/right attitude too.

But truly, who likes to be inconvenienced? Who likes being caught totally unprepared? I don’t see anyone putting up their hand for that, and I’m certainly not naturally in a rush to be so either. Imperfect hospitality (to me) means being and doing exactly what God requires or asks of me and not what the world tells me. It’s embracing Gods view and ways above my own. To be hospitable, is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers. It’s a requirement of us from God. Not to be done in perfection but in love and grace. I see it as inviting the awkward, the unfriendly, the lonely, the lost, the broken, the hurt, the different, the undeserving and even those who possibly are unfriendly and rude into my home. It’s here I need God's strength to show his compassion and love to all. I personally find this very scary and stretching most times and I can get panicky just thinking about it, never mind doing it. It’s also inviting the strangers, people whom I have just met or even those I barely know over for a meal or a coffee. "That’s crazy" I bet some of you are thinking or saying. But I know it’s Gods courage that I need here. It’s also being prepared to do the sudden, impromptu invites. Where in that very moment, you need to say, "please come on over to my place". It challenges me every time to be gracious and kind when I feel completely out of my depth and when I am totally unprepared. But it’s Gods strength that helps me. It's also having the grace to warmly greet and welcome in the unexpected visitor who just simply arrives at my door. (Mostly because my husband has forgotten to tell me and has forgotten himself.) This doesn’t often happen, but when it does and I have been caught off guard, I have to make an enormous effort to make sure my face and my body language and my words all come into line of being gracious and inviting. Oh, how I wish that were always true. Honestly if you had to look into my heart, it probably would appear a little frosty (cold is too harsh a word to use) at first but there is hope, I do warm up as time goes by. It’s also extending grace to those who I’ve invited for a quick coffee and who end up staying way longer than I had expected or planned. It’s being prepared to having my plans messed up, totally interrupted or even thrown completely out of the window. To being able to go with the flow, being relaxed and not uptight and rigid. It’s Gods patience and mercy I need here. It’s letting people see your home as-is, a bit messy, but lived in. With imperfect people, rather than having the perfect show house. If truth be told, it’s the pride in me that wants things to be perfect, for it to be a truly wonderful experience in a clean and tidy and ordered house. For my guests to be a little impressed with my culinary skills and my beautifully set table, and that I appear to be the perfect hostess, looking all calm and together and in control. How unreal is all this. What stupid pressure. How far is that from the real reason why we have people in our homes. To show them Jesus love, in our homes and in our lives. It’s not about us. Ever! It is about them. Always! Our guests, visitors and even strangers, need to feel warmly invited, truly loved, accepted and celebrated and totally at ease. This requires us to be open-hearted, generously open handed (because all we have comes from God) and opened homed. (In other words, having an open house. I know there’s no such word but I’m claiming it as mine.) Where all are welcome and made to feel at home. It’s being prepared to share whatever you have, whenever, in any way, no matter how little or how much. It’s being prepared to be unprepared, to not having everything in perfect order in the home, but having your heart and your hands ready. And a huge smile on your face.

Love, Heidi

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