A few years ago, shortly after I moved to South Carolina, I welcomed my extended family over for dinner during one of their annual summer visits to our resort community. As I was giving my Dad a tour of our beautiful new house, traipsing through the huge master bathroom and delighting in our spacious kitchen, I pointed out how worn the carpet was in most every room. I lamented about not having enough financial room in our contract to replace bad carpeting with wood floors like we planned.
Instead of being thankful for an extravagance of riches, I was defining our transition by the stained carpet. I didn’t realize I was highlighting the negatives until my Dad brought it up later in an email.
After reading his words, I pushed my chair back from my desk, hung my head down and repented. He was right, I was ungrateful.
It made me think about the times I’ve volunteered to serve with expectancy only to be squelched by negative remarks from leaders about the people they serve. Offered to help a host in the kitchen and ended up being an ear for wishes about newer countertops, a more helpful husband, and an updated oven.
Motives are often revealed in our off handed criticisms but sometimes those judgements aren’t as much about character as they are about a chronic state of unrest. When we are worn out, a rhythm of grace is elusive. We tend to find fault easier when we are tired.
Pay attention to what you hear yourself saying. It can be a red flag that rest is needed more than being present with people.
While hospitality requires a sacrifice of time and resources for the sake of others, there are times when the most hospitable action we can take is to rest from hospitality for a season.
If you hear yourself saying should in reference to serving people, this is a sign you may need a sabbatical from hospitality. Remember what if feels like to bless people because you want to, not because you feel like you should? Maybe you are in a rhythm of cooking a Sunday spread for friends and family after church because that’s been a rhythm for generations. Or perhaps you are in a place of leadership and inviting people to your home for supper is what leaders are “supposed” to do. You are tired but you aren’t sure how to say no and stop the cycle.
May I encourage you to remember that Jesus always leads from love, not from duty. Start new traditions that overflow from a place of passion and create your own unique rhythms. More than the style on your table or cooking gourmet food, inner confidence from a place of peace is the greatest gift you can give someone.
It is difficult to be fully present with people when you are suffocating a yawn during the first course.
Are you drained after being with people? If so, it may be an indication that rest is needed before extending invitations or signing up to serve. All the introverts are nodding yes but what I’m referring to isn’t a personality trait. Preparation required for hosting a meal in your home or gathering a small group for routine meetings can often prove tiring. But when you feel like you have nothing left to give or resent people’s needs or avoid contact altogether, you need to pass the baton to someone else or take a break for a season. While the dishes looming on the counter seem overwhelming, the heart of hospitality replenishes. That’s why Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
If the reactions of others don’t live up to your expectations, it may be a sign your motives are slanted. You may be practicing hospitality in order to achieve preferred outcomes. Love and compassion for people is the basis for cultivating hospitality. Jesus provided a miracle in feeding 5,000 because compassion brought him out among the people in the first place. (Mark 6:34) And he asked for help when it came to feeding the people.
When an invitation to dinner mutates into the hope of reciprocation or garnering compliments on your cooking, it becomes about you. If you find time serving at a homeless shelter leaves you bitter because the guests weren’t thankful enough, you may have slipped into legalism. What begins as a blessing ends empty and disappointing if we are being generous because we have underlying motives.
The day I welcomed my Dad into our new house for the first time, we enjoyed his visit but my criticism about the carpet is what he remembered. And I’m thankful.
Because now, every time I extend an invitation to cultivate friendship, I listen to what I say when we engage in hospitality. Checking motives is a good discipline.
Let people remember kindness and generous sacrifice when they look back on their time with us. Choose rest first and become a thankful host.
*Images by: Catt Liu