Months ago now, my family and I were invited to my friend Monica’s home—an experienced nothing short of delightful for all of us. We guffawed at each others’ comments, scooped steaming heaps of food on plastic plates, relaxed. But what struck me was the nature of my friend’s entertaining.
Monica is a local Ugandan friend. We drove to her home on roads with so many potholes our heads nearly hit the roof, save the seatbelt. She and her five relatives resided in a single concrete room with a barred window.
With her characteristic wide smile and giddy chatter, she dished the food in a small area partitioned off from the shared bunk beds by hanging bedsheets. Perhaps two of the worn plastic plates matched, but it didn’t really matter as we sat outside on fraying, hand-woven mats and plastic chairs, chuckling over stories about the waggling ducks and chicks that poked for food nearby. The food was local fare: not American, but more than adequate, and a clear display of her exuberance to have us there. Together we washed the forks with soap from a plastic jug of water tipped over the dirt, then divvied out the sliced fresh mangoes and watermelon to share.
By the time we bounced out in our minivan, windows rolled down, she was waving with her entire body and already asking us back.
I realized what made my friend’s hospitality sparkle: It wasn’t her serving dishes, her perfectly-tuned recipe, or the (absent) centerpiece that made our time quality. It was simply her desire to honor us, to give generously, to connect with us and enjoy a relationship.
Now, my own artistic nature is energized creating that kind of atmosphere. The next night, in fact, I spread jars and bottles of flowers from my beds on the table, spent the afternoon chopping and simmering for a horde of guests.
But there are times when my stress and preoccupation from hosting—or, let’s be frank, my concern with my image—actually corrodes my original purpose of true fellowship, of deepened relationship. I’m not unlike my old friend from Luke 10, Martha, all concerned with preparations, and missing out on the privilege of my guest, the richness of his or her company.
Courtney Reissig puts it this way:
The purpose of the home is to be a place of refuge, grace, and productivity—not a platform for me to prove what a great homemaker I am.
I’m grateful to my friend for pulling out her best for us, but allowing the centerpiece to be her love for us and our friendship in Jesus. I’m thankful she allowed loose ends to fall where they may, and embraced my husband and I and our crazy kids without embarrassment or pressure.
I’ll sign up for that kind of hospitality any day.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is… Proverbs 15:17