One in Christ: Hospitality in Marriage
A couple of months ago a reader emailed me asking a series of questions about how hospitality works in our marriage. As I thought through her questions, I was reminded of some of the other conversations I've had with you as well. I know many of you struggle to find a rhythm for hospitality as a couple and admittedly it can be challenging when our needs, gifts and preferences can differ vastly from our spouse.
I love to share about how hospitality is a call for all Christians in every season of life, but I do think it is relevant to address how hospitality works itself out in the context of a relationship with your husband specifically. There is so much potential to bear abundant fruit in the Kingdom by partnering together with our husbands in ministry this way, yet it's not without it's tensions. Thank you to Leigh-Anne for being so bold to ask for a post about this. I pray that this post is a source of clarity and provokes some good conversation between husband and wife as you read.
I polled instagram for questions on this subject, so I'm going to do my best to answer them below and share some practical principles to think through. I would encourage you to talk through each question/principle with your husband as a spring board for conversation that I hope unifies you on this topic.
Unity in Christ
The foundation for any topic on marriage has to be unity in Christ. The Bible calls us to be one in Spirit and of the same mind. This doesn't mean that we have to agree on every single subject, but it does mean that above all else, we must respect the other persons thoughts, feelings and concerns. We seek to listen more than we speak and our aim in conversation should never be to prove a point or be "right." I think it's important to note that you will most likely not come away with a complete plan or resolution from just one conversation with your husband about hospitality. It may take a season of digging in together on the topic so that you both are using the same language, understanding one another, and really practicing these rhythms as you discover what works best for your family.
Understanding what hospitality is and is not
First, I don't want to assume that we all have the right view of what hospitality actually is. I've written about it many times on my instagram (#NRHospitality) and blog, so you can search there, but rather than hash it out again in this post I'm just going to recommend two incredible resources to you that I think will be a great start. These are two books I've read and thoroughly enjoyed. Read them together as a couple and discuss them! I believe these will be so helpful to aid in unifying you both in a common mission.
- The Hospitality Commands by Alexander Strauch (about 50ish pages, very readable, what I would call a theology of hospitality + practical ideas for living it out)
- The Simplest Way to Change the World by Dustin Willis & Brandon Clements (wonderful, practical book on the subject. There are even discussion questions at the end of each chapter which would be perfect for a husband and wife to go through together!)
How do you use your gifts together?
First, you need to know what your spiritual gifts are. If this topic is confusing to you, our church walked through a sermon series on the topic last year that you can access here: Gifts of Grace Series from The Village Church
Once you have discerned what your gifts are, then it's time to communicate with your husband about them. Set aside a night at home or a date night and discuss:
- How can my gifts as a wife contribute to the needs of hospitality?
- How can my gifts as a husband contribute to the needs of hospitality?
- What specific roles can we assume when we are hosting people? (This will look different when you host friends versus strangers, and even when/if you have someone living with you for a while versus opening your door for an occasional meal)
- How do people best feel loved by me? How can I incorporate that gift into my hospitality?
The hope is that each person in the relationship will understand how they are uniquely qualified and created by God to contribute to His mission. If you have a good grasp on what hospitality is, then you know how God uses it to build His Kingdom. Hospitality is a command for all believers in Christ, not just the ones who really like to cook, or who this comes naturally to (Romans 12:13). Taking part in the history-shaping mission of God is what we are all called to do as believers (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) and opening our homes provides a simple yet impactful way to do it. I can't tell you what that will look like for each specific couple, but as you discuss your gifts, I think it will become more clear how you can each contribute to the ministry of hospitality.
What if my husband and I have different personality types?
I think the same applies here - have an honest conversation. Some are extroverts, some are introverts, some are in between. My husband and I are both introverts. We have the ability to turn on the energy and make new people feel welcomed, but need our time alone as well to recharge. Hospitality to strangers really drains me, so I have to be careful to temper that with times of refreshing like getting together with friends. I know that we are called to invite those to the table who cannot repay us, so we are mindful to invite neighbors, missionaries, etc. over, with the knowledge that all the get-to-know-you question asking and if possible, Gospel-sharing actually takes the energy right out of us. I say this to make the point that your personality type does not give you a pass out of obeying God's commands. Is it going to be easier for some to pursue their neighbors where for others it will be harder? Yes, of course. Just because hospitality doesn't feel "natural" to you, doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Instead, I would encourage you to see your personality as a tool to strategically leverage for the Gospel.
Here are some thoughts to discuss together:
- What is each of our personality types, and how can we utilize them when pursuing hospitality?
- Who do each of us naturally attract? How are we uniquely wired to love a certain group of people, and what ways can we lean into that and plan ahead for hospitality with these people?
- How can you use how God has uniquely designed you to draw others to Him?
How do I handle a husband with a different set of values?
This goes back to understanding what hospitality is and isn't. When we realize that hospitality is one major way God is building His church and bringing new people into His family (and has been from the beginning) then it changes everything. I think a lot of Christians are scared of sharing their faith, afraid of saying the wrong thing in the work place or even not being allowed to say anything in the workplace. That's why in-your-home biblical hospitality is so important. No one can fire you for praying before a meal (thanks for this reminder, Rosaria Butterfield). Your home is a much warmer place where emotional and spiritual walls can come down and real conversation can happen. You can linger over conversation, and even invite that person back another time. Hospitality is the space where we can engage our world through a meal or act of service. I've said this before but hospitality = activities I'm already doing + people. Eating dinner? Invite someone to join. Watching your kid practice soccer? Invite someone to join. And as you do, be intentional to ask questions and be a light for Christ. It's literally the thing Jesus asked us to do after He was raised from the dead. This is it y'all - our purpose. Make disciples who make disciples. You can do that powerfully through the comfort of your own home! Hospitality is so simple it's often overlooked, but so powerful when we choose to make it a priority.
The following are more personal answers from Jordan and my relationship and how we handle hospitality together.
Do both you and your husband share the same convictions about hospitality or is it something you always initiate? We do share the same convictions about hospitality. We bring different gifts to the table, but we have the same heart. I am doing the inviting and planning 99% of the time, because it's what I'm good at. There are times he initiates with people, but I am just stronger in that area and have the bandwidth to think about it more, so I run our calendar for the most part.
I find it extremely difficult to keep conversations that are just casual and “fluffy “ so to speak, can you speak to that? I don't love small talk, so I tend to ask questions that get below the surface. Depending on who is over, Jordan may take more of the lead in conversation, or I might. There are some nights I tell him, please lead this conversation because I have nothing left right now. Typically I become more engaged as our time with others goes on, but sometimes I have a bad attitude and genuinely don't want to be there, haha! If your husband is pretty charismatic, he may lead out on most of the question asking and conversation building. You may serve best by preparing a space to gather, cooking a meal, or interjecting with thoughts as you feel led. Again, talk about your gifts and roles you desire to take when practicing hospitality.
Do you both pray together before hosting others? Sometimes. Mostly I will pray in my head before people arrive, but if we have been actively praying for someone prior to, then we will pray together before they come over. Though, usually that is the time of day when our kids are the most needy and wild, so praying happens in our heads a lot individually or very quickly in between wrangling kiddos.
Is your husband always on board for new guests? Yep, pretty much. I don't think he's ever said anything negative about it. He is an easy going person though, which is just his personality. If your husband isn't the kind that loves spur of the moment guests, then talk about that. Do what you need to respect your husbands desires while also making your home a safe space for strangers to come in.
How do you start deep conversations? Jordan is amazing at starting deep spiritual conversations, he just goes for it with no apologies. I tend to skirt around it a bit which I am still growing in. We don't always try to come out of the gate with spiritual questions, but we prayerfully look for open doors. Along these lines, I think if you are asking questions about people's family background, how a couple met, etc. then deep things start to come out. I am always surprised when new-to-us people share deep dark secrets with us the first time we've met. It happens more than you would imagine, but I think that just comes from establishing a place where people feel comfortable to share.
Asking questions is huge because most people in our culture are not doing it. Most people we interact with all day are just thinking about themselves and their goals. We are so parched for real community in our culture that asking someone about themselves can be one of the most loving things we can do for people. We are also okay with it taking a few times together with someone new to get to spiritual or deeper things. It's relationship building over the long haul. This is also another reason why prayer is so important!
I end up doing al the "Martha" things while my husband does all the "Mary" things, and I get burnt out from it all. How do you navigate being hospitable and enjoying the night equally? This is a perfect example of potentially not working in your gifts. If you find that you are constantly over-serving and stressing about the preparations of hospitality too much then stop and ask yourself: what do I think the Bible commands of me regarding hospitality? The short version of that answer would just be: love. To love others and make them feel welcomed. Sure, sometimes that means a picked up living room, glasses full of water, and a set table. But often those are just peripherals meant to distract us from the true heart of hospitality, which is love. I think a lot of times women feel guilt if we're not stressed by our preparations. We think "I didn't do enough to make these people feel welcomed" when in actuality, not much needs to be done. Do all the preparations stress you out or exhaust you? Try resisting the urge to do-do-do. When I put this into practice, our times with others are so much more rich, as my mind and heart are not frazzled, but available.
Moms: this is especially important for you! In a previous season, maybe it wouldn't have been stressful to do all the dishes before someone arrived, and there would have been time to set the table pretty. However, often times with kids these things get missed or forgotten. This is okay! Lean into the season you are in, settle into it so that you can be more affective with the little you have, the weakness you bring to the table so to speak. Whatever causes you to have more energy when you sit down at the table, the better. And keep in mind, this is something you want to be able to sustain long-term, not just do once a season and feel so burnt out you never want to have anyone over again. Think long-term sustainability when thinking through your role in hospitality.
If there are other resources you need, I'm all ears.
And, leave a comment letting me know your lingering questions or take-aways from this post! I love to hear from you!