Barriers to Hospitality (and how to overcome them)
Last year I started reading a book by Gloria Furman called "Glimpses of Grace." A friend had given it to me when I was struggling with the transition from working outside the home to being home all day with a baby. If you're a new mama, I so recommend this book. Just good truth on how to find real hope and security in the midst of that transition.
A couple of weeks ago my friend Victoria sent me this quote from the book as a text and my heart was lit on fire all over again. I was all: "yes!! YES!!! I need to write about this." So I did :)
There are so many barriers to getting a meal on our tables for our families, let alone anyone outside our immediate family. It can feel overwhelming, confusing and daunting to think about hospitality. How does it work? Is there a right way to do this? Will I be judged or laughed at? All of these questions have run through my mind at one point or another. The thing is that these questions are so self focused. And hospitality, at it's core, is others focused.
I want to share Gloria's quote and pull out some of the barriers she lists, all that I have experienced myself, and share some of my insights into how to overcome those barriers.
HERE'S GLORIA'S TAKE:
“What’s for supper?” “What’s in this?” “There isn’t any more?” “How many calories is that?” “What did this cost?”
These simple food-related questions have the power to stir up so many emotions in us. Often the prevailing emotion is anxiety. If left unchecked, anxiety gives rise to unbelief and a host of other problems that bleed out into other areas of our lives. As homemakers we’re tempted to devote ourselves to building our identity out of what we put on the dinner table. We’re tempted to revel in people-pleasing. We’re tempted to compare ourselves to others. We’re tempted to feed our superior attitudes about our taste in food. All this for food!
How easy it is to obsess over food and miss the point of food. The purpose of planning meals, shopping for groceries, cooking, and serving food is to get your spiritual appetite rumbling for God’s superiority in all things. God is infinitely superior to the food he created to sustain the bodies he’s given us for the purpose of glorifying him in all things. God has given us his Son, and when we believe in him, we can be free from the sin that so easily entangles us.
Jesus, through the gospel, frees us. We can be free from judging others by what they are able to create in the kitchen. We can be free from criticizing others for what they feed their families. We can be free from comparing ourselves to models of culinary perfection. We can be free from eating the bread of anxious toil. We can be free from feeling insecure about what we are not able to create in the kitchen. We can be free to give away what we have, because we have a better possession in Christ. When we live in the reality of our identity in Christ, we discover we are free.
I have been there, the frazzled sweaty mess right before our friends knock on the door. Or frantically chopping vegetables while Reaghan screams in her high chair. I happen to love cooking, but in these moments, I don't. I have to simply shift my mindset, breathe in, and sometimes cook after Reaghan goes to bed for the sake of my sanity.
"Cooking stresses me out." I've heard this so many times before, and my question is WHY? What is it for you that leads to anxiety over cooking? I think sometimes we say that, rationalizing that it's difficult, or we've never done it before, or aren't that good (whatever that means) so we give up before we even try.
Here's an exercise for you: set a timer for 10 minutes and write out the answers to these questions:
- What is leading to my cooking and hospitality stress?
- Why are those things stressful for me?
- What is the trade-off? What can I gain from saying "no" to anxiety and "yes" to joyfully serving others?
- Is that trade-off worth it?
If your answer to that last one is "yes," then you know it's a mindset shift for you! So let's talk about the heart stuff.
We say "well, I'm not a homemaker" "that's not my strength" "I don't have time." All of these phrases are evidences of unbelief. We perceive that we are not the person we should be to make hospitality happen, so we believe the worst in ourselves. Friend, this can only lead to NOT offering up our homes to others. Unbelief has no place in your life, because it only leads to insecurity.
IDENTITY + INSECURITY
Why do we insist on finding our identities in what the world around us says? We have wrongly believed that hospitality can only happen when the house is sparkling and the dishes in their right place. Do you know how often I vacuum?! Pretty much never...ha! It's a sad thing actually, but it's just not the first thing on my priority list at this point in my life. And that's okay. Gently let go of that which is holding your identity captive inside the guise of hospitable. And while you're at it, stop browsing Pinterest. Are you ever going to make those sugar cookies with the snowflake decorated in perfectly placed icing? I'm just going to answer that one for you: no. So, with that behind us, we can press on together toward creating simple real food, saving brain space and reserving all that energy to give to others instead.
You've heard it before, but it's the thief of joy. "I'm not as good as her" "She's not as good as me" (YUCK) "I can't believe she would feed her kids THAT!"
Comparison is the killer of hospitality. He comes up from out of nowhere and destroys all who give him any ear to listen. I have been on both sides of this. I've had plenty of people tell me before I even sit down to enjoy their delicious food, how their skills are nothing compared to mine and I wont be impressed.
WHAT. In case anyone thought that because I talk about food online I'm perfect in this area, I am surely not. Let me burst your bubble right there. I burned two batches of almonds and quinoa twice the other night, setting off our fire alarm TWICE. So yes, I fail all the time. But I've also been the one comparing. As I learn more and more about real whole food, I find myself cringing when I see others eating things I've deemed "bad." This is hypocrisy in me, especially since I am not perfect in this area at all. Anyone could very well say the same thing about me, and so creates an ugly cycle. So let's just cut off the cycle before it kills us, okay?
GIVE IT AWAY
Everything, every last drop you have. Not because you have to, but out of joy. THIS is hospitality.
Let freedom ring in your identity. We must find our identity alone in Jesus before we can ever feel okay with our meal-time strategy and asking others to enter into that. In the same vein, and this could be a whole post in and of itself, hospitality doesn't have to mean dinner around the table. It could be an afternoon chatting over tea, bringing a meal to a friend, or just simply being together.
So, which barriers trip you up in being hospitable? How will you overcome them?
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