Updated: Aug 10
December 3, 2018
The South. Known for our sweet, yet twangy dialects and the thing I am most proud of: our hospitality. Raised in a rather traditional family, according to the standards of this region, hospitality courses through my veins. My sister and I practiced laying out a tea fit for the Queen on our primary-colored Playskool table. In the kitchen, we tucked underneath our mother and grandmothers to learn the art of hand-cutting biscuits and how to make the perfect pound cake. On Sundays, our doors were always open to family and friends to share a made-from-scratch meal. We still have that dining room table that seats six and often wonder out loud in amusement how we used to fit so many more around it. In our home, there was always room and always seconds.
“Hospitality refers to the relationship between a guest and a host, wherein the host receives the guest with goodwill, including the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers” (Wikipedia, 2018).
This particular definition stands out to me. It isn’t just about the food and the beautiful table settings; it is about the relationships. Whether it is someone staying a while, popping in for a quick visit, or complete strangers unsure of their intended stay, the host receives all who come through their door with goodwill.
Now, one thing I will say about a Southern hostess, it is hard to tell her “no.” Once the invite is extended to come in or for a second helping, your only option is “yes, please.” One of my favorite characters in the Bible mirrors a Southern hostess in many ways; Lydia. Acts chapter 16 highlights Lydia’s hospitality to Paul and Silas.
“One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house” (Acts 16:14 – 15, New International Version).
The details that are included by the author, Luke, say a lot about Lydia. She was a dealer of purple cloth. This would have been one of the finest fabrics available at the time, reflecting her disposition for quality and her success as a businesswoman. She was persistent yet personable in her persuasion of the group to come to her home. Above all, she served the Lord, which she could firmly stand on in her invitation. She saw to it that her entire household was baptized as a public display that her home, her most vulnerable yet prideful place, would be one given to the Lord. Though no further details were given and her mention is brief, her hospitality still made enough of an impression to have made the Bible. I want whatever recipes she served up that day.
I want to be like Lydia. A woman who conducts her business and household in a way that worships God. Welcoming to loved ones and strangers alike. Even as I type that, my heart thuds a little harder at the thought of who God might send through my doors over the years. It may not be easy and I’m too late to have landed my name in the Bible, but my prayer is to keep opening my heart to God just like Lydia did. From the Life Application Study Bible the footnotes on verse fifteen states,
“Rather than seeing the men as a burden and their presence as a disruption of her family and business routine, Lydia laid out the welcome mat. The notion of hospitality is related to the word ‘hospital.’ In other words, we practice hospitality when we generously and cordially throw open the doors of our homes to care for others. In hospitality, we nurture, strengthen, and serve. The result is that others find physical spiritual, and emotional help. When they leave us, they are healthier and more whole than when they came.”
(Tyndale House Publisher, page 1848)
Women who are successful in business and still run their home with the structure of a small army intimidate me. I do not know how they do it and I am just responsible for me, let alone a husband and kids. Yet, I find myself guilty of “being too busy” or “not having the resources” to help those around me. I read this passage and the fog of my excuses rolls away leaving a clear view of the road God has laid out ahead of me: to be more hospitable. One day it will include a family of my own. Maybe I will find foster or adopted children teetering through those doors. Relatives in need of care. Strangers longing for hope. We all need healing, but not all of us have a place where there’s room for more and there’s always seconds. My vision and timid prayer is to be that place where people leave healthier and more whole, all while worshipping the God who made it possible.
Though we laugh and brush off the trivial touches of table settings and what to serve, it is all in the details. Think back to an unforgettable stay at a hotel, bed-and-breakfast, or even at a family member’s home. What stands out? A warm breakfast wafting up the stairs to wake you? How special it felt as they dusted off their fine china to honor your arrival? Even the simplicity of the ease of having everything you need at your fingertips - creamy soaps, rich shampoos, warm blankets, and decadent coffees? Maintaining a five-star stay for each guest can stretch the most disciplined person thin. The Heart/Hospitality portion of the HMSS blog is dedicated to make opening our hearts and homes simple and affordable while maintaining a standard of quality care for each loved one God brings through our door. It's time we welcome others to come to the table.
Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publisher, 2005. Print. New International Version.
Wikipedia contributors. (2018, September 19). Hospitality. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15:42, October 22, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hospitality&oldid=860291323