Have you ever noticed that the root word of hospitality is hospital? Can you think of any better place to minister to the needs of your family and friends and others in need of comfort than the welcoming embrace of your family home? I can’t either!
The truth of the matter is that our homes provide the perfect environment to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of our family and those that enter our home’s sheltering embrace. And as women, we are the administrators of this institution – the home, mankind’s first “hospital”.
In this modern age, true hospitality is quickly becoming a lost art. We have given up the throne of our home for the lure of a corner office, and in the process, we have forgotten how to serve our family and everyone else within our sphere of influence.
When I was a little girl, I loved getting coffee for my daddy. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to learn to make it and once old enough, I took great pleasure in making sure he had fresh coffee before he even knew he needed it. A number of times, ladies that were visiting our family would say cutting things like “your dad can get his own coffee – his legs aren’t broken!”, and for a moment, just a moment, I would wonder if somehow I was breaking some cardinal rule, serving my father. And then, I would take a breath and remember – serving was my calling. I was just being hospitable. I was ministering to those within my sphere of influence – and those old biddies could just go flour their eggies!
Over the years I have learned that hospitality truly begins at home. My husband is the king of his castle and I do everything I can to make him feel welcome and honored in his own home. I have found that I have many opportunities throughout the day to minister to my husband. I rise first in the morning, kick the wood cookstove in the guts and put water on for tea. I light candles on the tea table (a trunk in the middle of our kitchen), set tea cups and creamer and sugar out and fill the tea pot with hot water to heat it before setting the tea to steep. I mill around a bit, picking up little things that the children left out the night before, put the dog outside and generally get the house ready to greet my husband. As soon as tea is done steeping, my husband settles himself in the big rocking chair opposite the love seat and warmed by the heat of the cookstove, we enjoy a few cups of tea before he braves the elements of a new day. We discuss our plans for the day, funny little things the kids have said and problems we are not looking forward to having to handle. Essentially, we arm each other for the day ahead and then we pray together. This is practical hospitality.
During the day, as my children and I hurry from one task to another, I make sure to set aside some time to read to the littles or play a game. I spend much of my day talking to the older children – about everything from their favorite animals to the character qualities they want in a future mate. This is practical hospitality.
When a car drives up our driveway, I immediately have one of our older daughters put on the tea kettle or fill glasses with ice in anticipation of lemonade or iced tea. The younger children scurry around putting away toys or clearing away school books. Our entire focus becomes welcoming our guests. We do our best to minister to their needs, whatever they may be. We laugh with them, cry with them, rejoice with them and mourn with them – whatever the occasion calls for. We keep confidences and bandage wounds. We speak words of encouragement and words of truth. This is practical hospitality.
More often than not, hospitality is all about binding the wounds of life. It’s about building marriages and building relationships. It’s about smoothing over hurt feelings and drying tears with words of comfort. It’s about hugging someone who needs a hug and gently speaking to the truth to someone who is in the wrong. Hospitality is much more than nourishing the body. Hospitality is ministering to the soul.
When my husband returns from work, I have tea waiting for him. We reconnect. Talk about our day. We share our highs and lows. There are no children allowed. Just my husband and I. I minister to him. He ministers to me. This is practical hospitality.
I still love to get coffee for my daddy. I love to get coffee for my husband as well. But now, my daughters often beat me to it. They too, have learned to love serving the people in their lives. Any more, I don’t even have to ask to have the kettle put on or the glasses filled with ice – they just do it. And it is not only my daughters. My sons will quietly whisper “aren’t you going to invite them in for tea, mom?”, when an unexpected visitor shows up at our door. Hospitality, it seems, is catching.
In a world filled with “entertaining”, true hospitality is a life-giving breath of fresh air. True hospitality will build new relationships and strengthen old ones. True hospitality will bind wounds and strengthen bonds. True hospitality isn’t fancy and doesn’t put on airs – true hospitality is practical hospitality.