If you've been around me or this blog for a while, you know my heart beats for hospitality. This year, one of my goals for 2016 has been to really dig in to what hospitality looks like beyond the regular "hospitality is not entertaining" mantra. I've wanted to really learn what God says about the matter, not just what sounds poetic or feels good for our culture, you know?
This summer I'm studying Acts, and already (only 2 chapters in) God is revealing so much about genuine community. Couple that with the intense amount of tangible love I've felt from friends in this recent season of my life, and the true heart of hospitality has become more palpable to me than ever before.
If we're going to ask "what is hospitality?," one of the obvious next questions for me is then "does it have to include food?"
The short answer is: no. For the woman who knows that cooking is not her gifting, or the woman who feels like they need to prepare a 4 course meal in order to invite friends over for dinner, and feels utterly exhausted by that, this is good news. But (and this is a really hopeful but) Acts is showing me that Jesus came eating and drinking - he came to call the marginalized into his circle and used the table as the place to do that. The table seems to be such a focal point for Jesus as he forgives the worst of the worst in the city, and extends gracious hospitality to them as he loves them well.
Hospitality is defined as extending charity and genuine care towards someone else, typically those visiting your home. So does this have to involve food? Not really. But (here's the hopeful but again) we get to involve food. It's a joy because no one can deny that food draws people in. Food provides a natural centerpiece for connection. Tell me you wouldn't jump at the opportunity to have dinner at a friends home if offered? So it's no wonder that in Acts 2, "breaking bread" (sharing a meal) was mentioned twice in a matter of a few short sentences spelling out a lesson on genuine community.
Community is cultivated, seeds planted, and relationships deepened around the table. This has been shown to me in such a tangible way recently. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was texting back and forth with a friend (both of us just had babies within a few weeks of each other, so we're both in that postpartum phase together) and she asked how I was doing. All I replied with was "not so good" and immediately she responded with an offer to bring us a meal. I didn't need to give her any more details, and already she knew what my heart needed.
She didn't shy away from community by just dropping something off, she invited her family of 5 over to our home to share that meal with us. In the midst of feeding picky toddlers, rocking babies in car seats, and nursing another fussy baby, such genuine and heartfelt community happened around our table. I can't tell you how loved I felt. That in a season of my life where my capacity has seemed to have dwindled down to almost nothing, someone in practically the same boat as me extended her arms to our family - speaking volumes about grace and love and hospitality in a crockpot meal shared around our table.
So, of course hospitality doesn't have to be dinner at my house at 6.....but it's a great option, don't you think? How can we keep our food simple and no fuss, so that we can free ourselves up to love people well? It's worth exploring and taking that risk, for on the other side of the table, I believe, is true intimacy.