As I’ve gotten to the age where my babies are no longer babies it seems kind of natural to look back over 20+ years of marriage and motherhood and think about the things I know now and wish I had known then. Unfortunately, most of them are things that only become apparent over time and even if someone had sat me down, drawn me a diagram, given me Scriptures, talked in monosyllabic words and anointed me with oil, it probably still would all have gone right over my head.
Why? Am I just slower than the normal person? Am I just more stubborn? While it’s probably true that I am slow and stubborn, the real problem was a lack of context. Facts and information don’t necessarily translate into a better reality if you have no idea how to apply them.
So with that said, this is something that’s evolved in my mind over the last couple of years as the Father has been transforming me through His love. The idea has finally taken enough shape for me that I can actually share my thoughts.
Hospitality. Yes, that’s the big revelation. I know everyone else gets it, but please be patient with me. This momma has just spent the last week literally looking back over 20+ years through my family photographs and it has stirred many thoughts and emotions in me.
Hospitality. It’s a word I have often associated with vacuuming, fluffing pillows, baking cookies, spraying air freshener and inviting people over. For most of my adult life I have reduced hospitality to something you offer to guests, visitors, who briefly enter your home, share some conversation and then go their respective ways. Being a closet introvert who battled gripping fear, guilt, shame and depression made it impossible to ever achieve my definition of a hospitable person, someone who looks very much like June Cleaver. And so I’ve judged myself to be inhospitable.
But what’s been rolling around in my little noggin’ as the Lord has helped me embrace the unique way He has created me and wants to express Himself through me, is that hospitality is so much more than the June Cleaver image I have in my mind, and it’s an idea that should begin with our family.
It’s not limited to creating a physical space that welcomes people in, but more about inviting people to come as they are into our lives without any expectation that they be anything other than themselves. We communicate that invitation and that welcoming to others by being ourselves with them. Instead of wearing masks that hide our struggles or pain or (fill in the blank), when we are ourselves others feel the freedom to be themselves.
Jesus modeled this for us. He came to save the world and Ephesians tells us that while we were still sinners He died for us. He didn’t expect us to clean ourselves up before we entered His presence. Even before the cross while He walked the earth He spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles without expectation that they be anything but themselves. It was in the presence of Love, not condemnation that people’s lives were and still are transformed.
Back to motherhood…if I could go back twenty years I would approach motherhood (and marriage) with less expectation and more acceptance and love. Instead of being constantly on behavior and thought patrol and modeling the gospel as behavior management, I would invite my children to be themselves and point them to a relationship with the Living God who is Love and wants to be known by them so that they can live loved, not fearful.
I would listen more and lecture less. I would react less and judge less. I would require less, expect less and enjoy them more. I would laugh more, especially at myself. Instead of trying to control behavior I would tune into their hearts. I would focus less on controlling outcomes and more on their relationship with God. Each of them is a unique expression of God in this world, I would rely more on love and less on rules. Love transforms from the inside out with unlimited possibilities. Rules conform to a predetermined size and shape with specific definitions of success…they limit possibilities.
Hospitality isn’t necessarily having the perfect home and perfectly behaved kids (what are those anyway?) and an Open 24 Hour sign on your front door. It’s extending an invitation to the people God brings into your life to be accepted and loved, just like Christ did for us.
I doubt I will ever be one of those women who has lots of gatherings in her home, in fact I view my home as sort of a sanctuary for my family. However, I would like to be someone who makes others feel welcome, accepted, loved and free to be who God created them to be as we go through our day-to-day lives together, especially my family.