Sofa
When I am expecting guests I typically work myself into a frothy frenzy. Not only do I plunge headlong into the standard pre-party chores – vacuuming, scrubbing toilets, grocery shopping, dusting, de-cobwebbing – I also tackle what most people would consider “deep cleaning.”

I scrub the baseboards. I polish the hardwood floors. I re-grout the tub. Once I even repainted an entire wall in my living just hours before my dinner guests arrived. I’d intended to touch up a few scuff marks but accidently used the wrong paint.

Suffice to say, by the time the doorbell rang I looked and felt like I’d just completed the Iditarod. Not only did I barely have the energy to put dinner on the table, I was too exhausted to enjoy myself or the company of my guests.

It probably goes without saying: hospitality is not one of my spiritual gifts. Or at least this is what I’ve always assumed.

But surprisingly, a monk named Benedict of Nursia has shown me that I might have the gift of hospitality – or at least the potential for it — after all.

Now, you might wonder what in the world a fifteenth-century bald monk in a brown bathrobe living in a monastery with a bunch of other bald monks in brown bathrobes would have to say about hospitality, but listen to this:

“Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest, and you received Me.’”

That’s a quote from The Rule of Saint Benedict, which Benedict wrote as a guideline to help his monks live better together in a monastic community. And as it turns out, fifteenth-century monks received more than their fair share of guests.

Unlike most of the guests we welcome into our homes, the guests the Benedictine monks received were usually strangers — often pilgrims who appeared on their doorstep unannounced, looking for shelter and sustenance. And it’s this detail that has opened a whole new understanding of hospitality for me.

When we define hospitality as what happens around our own dining room table and with our own family and friends, we limit its scope and potential. We stop far short of the kind of hospitality Christ had in mind. In Jesus’ eyes, hospitality includes how we welcome and receive everyone – not just the guests we invite to cross our thresholds, but those who cross our paths in ordinary, everyday ways as well.

Last week two men rang my doorbell as their truck idled at the curb. They had arrived to deliver my new sofa.

The men were Latino and spoke very little English, so we communicated mainly in gestures and clipped sentences. As they wrangled the heavy pieces of furniture through my front door, unwrapped the plastic, and positioned the sections in the space I’d cleared, I hung back. I leaned against the doorframe of the living room with my arms crossed and watched, occasionally gesturing awkwardly when a piece needed to be shifted a little more to the right or to the left.

When the two men had placed the last part of the sectional, I signed the appropriate paperwork, thanked them and then walked them to the door.
That, my friends, was a missed opportunity for hospitality.

Granted they didn’t speak much English, but I didn’t even try to be friendly. I didn’t offer them a glass of water. I doubt I even smiled.
I didn’t receive those two men as guests in my home. I didn’t receive them, like Benedict advised, as Christ. In fact, I didn’t really receive them at all.

Hospitality isn’t as difficult as I’ve always made it out to be. It doesn’t necessarily involve scrubbing or sweeping or cooking. It doesn’t require holiday-themed hand towels or Pier I napkin rings.

True hospitality is much simpler than that. It is the act of receiving a person, even a stranger, as Christ.
Benedict taught me that I do indeed have the gift of hospitality. Two strangers at my door reminded me of how often I fail to use it.

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Michelle DeRusha / Posts / Blog
A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens … and God. She is the author of Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith and 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith. Michelle is mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor at Doane College who reads Moby Dick for fun. You can connect with Michelle at her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.
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    Shelly Miller
    http://redemptionsbeauty.com/

    Michelle, in your usual wonderful way with honest humor, you made me laugh and then think in a way that makes something simply overlooked an opportunity for the Kingdom. Love seeing you here!

    November 21st, 2014 12:52
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      Michelle DeRusha
      http://michellederusha.com/

      Thanks, Shellly – I love this space – so thrilled to be here today!

      November 21st, 2014 15:09
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    Michele Morin
    http://michelemorin.wordpress.com

    Yes, I completely identify with the “frothy frenzy,” but I’m always glad I had guests after the fact. I think there’s a lesson there about obedience. My hair may ignite in the process, but when God proves Himself faithful in the long run, we can be thankful that we listened and obeyed.

    November 21st, 2014 18:35
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      Michelle DeRusha
      http://michellederusha.com/

      Absolutely, Michele – I’ve been thinking a lot about obedience lately, so your comment really hit home with me today. Thank you!

      November 22nd, 2014 0:40
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    Beth
    http://withlove-simplybeth.blogspot.com/

    Convicting when I think of the many strangers who have been in my home at some point and other missed opportunities, but a much needed and great message. I love how you tell a story too, Michelle.

    November 21st, 2014 18:54
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      Michelle DeRusha
      http://michellederusha.com/

      Thanks, Beth – I so appreciate you reading this – and I love seeing you here! 🙂

      November 22nd, 2014 0:39
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    Alysa @ Kitchen Fellowship
    http://kitchenfellowship.com

    Love this Michelle! I was just thinking of leaving some fresh baked cookies and a card on top of my trash bin (I know that sounds crazy) for the sanitation lady who picks up our trash. Maybe I’ll make a point of that this week. Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

    November 21st, 2014 23:22
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      Michelle DeRusha
      http://michellederusha.com/

      I think that’s a beautiful idea – I love it!

      November 22nd, 2014 0:39
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    Jean Wise
    http://www.healthyspirituality.org

    oh Michelle, I am right with you – not a grain of hospitality in my genes. God missed that ingredient in me. I do like wha you said about missed opportunity. That will remind me to be more watchful in the future. Now off to explore this web page….

    November 22nd, 2014 2:09
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    pastordt

    What a lovely site! And what a wonderful post, Michelle. Thank you.

    November 22nd, 2014 5:15
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    Kelly W
    http://askthatquestion.blogspot.ca/

    Such a good reminder… that we can choose this gift of hospitality. Well said Michelle – thank you.

    November 22nd, 2014 5:20
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    Leah Adams
    http://www.leahadams.org/

    I can identify with the ‘frothy frenzy’. My husband has mentioned, on occasion, that I get all ‘nerved up’ when we have overnight company coming. Thank you for sharing the quote from Benedict. It is such a beautiful reminder to strive to show Jesus’ love to whomever comes through our doors.

    November 22nd, 2014 9:59
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    Kris Camealy
    http://kriscamealy.com/

    Michelle, I appreciated this post more than I can say. your willingness to be honest is refreshing, and makes me uncomfortable in all of the right ways. I see myself in these words, and I am challenged to live hospitality better. Thank you, my friend.

    November 25th, 2014 18:16
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