Thirty-seven people have lived in my in-laws’ home—usually one at a time—for weeks, months and even years at a time.
When I first learned of this I thought it was weird. Why would they willingly inconvenience themselves and crowd their home with another person living there among their already big family?
I soon realized their main reasons for doing this were: Jesus and hospitable hearts—open hearts to help others, often in times of need.
Trying to follow their example, we had two college-aged girls live with us on two different occasions for about two months each.
I started off with good intentions—wanting to provide a haven and be a godly example. However, I think I scarred them with my controlling mannerisms and self-serving tendencies. I was more focused on what I was getting out of the deal—some free childcare and a weekly home-cooked meal—that I fear the experience left a bad taste in their mouth.
I desire to be a gracious host but “self” often gets in the way. This outgoing introvert melts down quicker than chocolate fondue over a hot sterno flame if I don’t have some breathing room (a.k.a. time alone to recharge).
I do like people. And I want to get better at putting others at ease within the walls of my home and heart. Even in the midst of Lego pieces strewn about and piles of creative clutter filling the counter, I want to provide guests with a slice of heaven, right along with a slice of apple pie, but I fall short; a lot.
Speaking of a slice of heaven, after six months of house hunting our family finally found a sweet deal on a home with breathing-room and breath-taking property—a large pond for swimming, a bubbling creek in the back and a 1970’s A-frame with Marsha Brady orange shag carpet. Tears filled our eyes as we walked around the yard and realized that all the ups and downs, along the frustration of five rejected offers, had led us to this place of answered prayer.
After months of looking it would be easy to view this new-to-us house like Gollum, from The Lord of the Rings, “Mine. My precious.” The temptation to keep this gift for ourselves, because we “deserve” it, would be an ugly, ungrateful one indeed.
When you wait long for something it can be tempting to hold it tightly once you’ve received it—almost strangling the life out of it. We clench our fists in fear, afraid that what’s been given might be taken away. We know we should share but it feels threatening and vulnerable.
When the kids fight over toys, often Legos, “It’s mine! Give it back now!” I remind them of this verse, 1 Chronicles 29:11, “…everything in heaven and earth is Yours, O Lord.” They roll their eyes, but it definitely puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Even for this big girl of 38 years.When we remember that this is not really our home—just temporary lodging before we arrive at our heavenly home—our perspective shifts and unclenches fists.
This home is Yours first, LORD. Everything belongs to You and You have let me borrow this for a time.
So now it is mine to use for Your purposes, to steward as You will.
And what was His, now mine, should also become “ours”.
A place for others…
Our extended family
Our children’s friends.
We may not have thirty-seven people live with us, (Please no!) but we can willingly host those He asks us to—who need a little haven, time to recharge, some breathing room and maybe a warm slice of apple pie too.
May we inconvenience ourselves and our personality types to open the door to one in need, one who is hurting, one who is celebrating, one who needs a little slice of heaven here on earth.
Let’s not start and end with “mine”. We’ve all been given something that we can share. We’ll all been entrusted with gifts that we can use to help others.
It all belongs to Him.
The open-handed home is one that remembers Jesus’ nail-scarred hands open to receive them. It is a home that extends grace because its tasted the sweetness of being forgiven. It’s a safe place for hearts to laugh, reveal scars and be filled.
When we open the doors to our homes and hearts we invite others to step onto holy ground—sacred gifted space, where they feel welcome and valued, a picture of what’s to come—even if that ground is covered with orange shag carpet.