Coming into marriage, my husband and I had very different experiences with hospitality.
I grew up in a socially “quiet” family. My parents’ friends never stopped by unannounced (or practically ever) and I can only recall one memory of our family hosting a party. We only saw our relatives every few years because they lived several states away. Whenever neighborhood kids knocked at our door, my brother and I hurried outside to play rather than inviting them into our house.
In contrast, my husband’s childhood home was filled with people. His grandparents, aunts, and uncles lived down the street, so extended family flowed in and out of his home (and he theirs) as naturally as water flowing downhill. His parents often invited neighbors to pool parties in their backyard, and friends—adults and children alike—were welcomed with open arms whenever they appeared at the door.
When my husband and I married, we endeavored to be open with our home and our lives. We both valued friendship, fellowship, and fun. The problem was that my new vision of hospitality went against my upbringing and my personality. I tended to be detail-oriented, perfectionistic, and introverted. Often the demands of hosting a party sucked so much of my energy that I found myself running on fumes by the time my guests arrived. When friends stopped by unannounced, I tried to go with the flow, but it wasn’t easy for me to submit my plans to the Holy Spirit’s nudges or accept grace about our less-than-pristine home. My extroverted husband, on the other hand, flourished in the very circumstances that exhausted me.
Over two decades, my husband and I have learned to leverage our individual strengths to be a welcoming couple. God has taught me to let go of frivolous details, ask for help when I need it, plan restful time into my day, and hold my plans loosely. But I still wondered why I had to work so hard at something that came naturally to others.
It wasn’t until I read Leslie Verner’s book, Invited: The Power of Hospitality in an Age of Loneliness, that my perspective changed.
Verner reshaped my view of hospitality from a laborious task I should be doing to a way of life that is open, lovely, and already within my reach. She asserts that “hospitality is not for the called or gifted. It’s not for the gregarious extroverts with huge houses and overflowing bank accounts. And it’s not for the people with angelic children, respectable roommates, or perfect marriages … Hospitality is for everyone.”
Biblical hospitality, according to Verner, is a privilege offered to those of us who have already been invited into God’s kingdom. He invited us, so we invite others.
And it doesn’t have to be as complicated as I was making it. A heart open to the Holy Spirit’s leading is all it takes. God can use a simple meal, a messy house, or some space for spontaneity in our calendar to bring us into community with those around us.
I found Verner’s application of the Good Samaritan parable refreshing. She points out that the Samaritan who stopped to help the wounded traveler did not go out of his way to find someone to serve; instead, he came alongside one already on his path. Biblical hospitality can be as simple as noticing those on the roads we already travel.
Verner also challenges the notion that those who go on missions are somehow more “holy” than those who stay. “While some of us may be led to move, go, and pledge ourselves to other lands, most of us are tasked with the mission to stay.” She demonstrates how those who remain in one place long enough to grow roots are uniquely poised to foster community.
As an introvert, I especially appreciated the chapter on solitude and how times of refreshment and reflection before the Lord serve to fuel our service to others.
This book is a must-read for every Christ follower in the North American church. Reclaiming the art of hospitality is imperative for reaching those around us and for experiencing genuine community.
Invited combines vignettes from Verner’s personal experiences with other cultures, fresh applications of the Scriptures, and practical tips for making hospitality reachable. The tone is nurturing and—you guessed it—inviting. Even for those of us who cringe at the thought of throwing a party.