Quite a few years back, my husband and I were two recent college graduates from two different states who fell in irreversible L.O.V.E. and made a home somewhere in the middle. It was no matter to us that we had no immediate family and only a small handful of friends in this new town, because we had solid jobs, promising careers, and again – L.O.V.E.
Our geographical circumstance meant hospitality was about to become an essential skill for our health as a couple (and later, as a family). In those early years, our marriage was easily blown by the winds of life but was fortified as we slowly formed friendships with other Christian couples. It was slow because we directed little effort to building friendships and as you would expect, we yielded the corresponding amount of fruit.
When we were expecting our first child, our need for a local friend-family was laid bare. We are responsible people who like to handle things ourselves. Generally, we had wrestled independently through issues in our marriage, careers, and home, but when a baby came into the picture, we desperately realized the practical need for more hands and experience.
Thankfully, God knew this would happen and years before, he had quietly placed people in our lives who would come to life as our local family.
The gift of family
One spring evening, I sat on the bleachers at a church softball game with a pregnant friend who knew a lot about babies. I casually asked her about various baby supplies I may need, then not so casually scribbled down each recommendation to add to our baby registry. This conversation opened the door to more talking and time together.
The following fall, she cemented her place in my “family” when she recognized my anxiety over leaving the house with my newborn and invited me to simply spend the day at her home as she cared for her baby. Come comfy, she said, and if I forgot anything, she would have all the supplies I could need. Just sitting with me in those tender days was more of a gift than she could have imagined.
Hospitality has been an ongoing process of opening our home, hearts, and family to connection with others. Sometimes it is an action, and sometimes it is an attitude. There are three obstacles I had to overcome to prepare my heart to give and receive hospitality:
Receive hospitality and ask for help
Building these kinds of relationships means accepting hospitality from others. Inconveniencing others to help with things I believe I should manage by myself makes me squirm and I avoid it as often as I can.
The flip side of this is that although we were always willing to help others, few people asked for our help. If we never ask for help, how will others know we are willing to extend the same to them? Life is not always a perfect give and take, but leaning on each other demonstrates a willingness to deepen friendships.
Hospitality sometimes requires saying “yes” when we feel like saying “no.” Opening our hearts to relying on others showed us that our friends need someone to rely on, too. This requires an outward shift in mindset so our arms are reaching out. Things like making a meal to deliver to another family and then feeding your own PB&J. Setting extra place settings and stretching a meal with short notice. Offering help with errands when a friend is feeling stressed. Checking in when friends are quiet. Answering the phone even when we don’t have time to talk.
Be the real you
Authentic friendship requires the real me. Intimacy in my friendships means letting go of perfect appearances, whether that’s perfect me or my perfect house, parenting, or marriage. I’ve had to send urgent texts asking for help. I’ve invited others into my messy home to have coffee with un-showered me. I’ve asked for prayer for hard things on my heart, even when worried what my friends may think. I’ve driven to a friend’s house in my pajamas for a hug when we learned bad news.
It’s hard for others to love someone they don’t really know. How has God strengthened your friendships through hospitality you’ve received or given?