Before we get too far into this whole hospitality thing, I think it’s going to be pretty important for us to define what we mean by the word “hospitality.” Because, you know what? I’m not sure we really know what it is.
We think we do. But we don’t.
Because we’re too jaded by the American Dream version of things.
Somewhere in our mind’s eye – influenced by our Pinterest boards and our HGTV shows and our mental pictures of Martha Stewart throwing the perfect garden party on her well-appointed patio – we have fashioned a caricature of hospitality that is really more like entertaining or party planning. And not necessarily hospitality.
It’s not that entertaining is bad per se. It can be great and fun and beautiful. It’s just that it’s not the same thing as hospitality. Not necessarily.
If you’ve ever been to a perfectly executed dinner party and felt extremely lonely in the midst of it all, you know just what I mean. How can that be? Surrounded by good food, people, and pretty centerpieces… and yet somehow still alone? I think it comes down to one significant difference. Entertaining, by definition, seeks to impress the guest. To wow him. By contrast, hospitality is all about blessing the guest. To love on him.
Can the two overlap? Absolutely. Am I saying you should never use the word entertaining because it makes you a shallow, materialistic dolt? No. I’m not. (In fact, a favorite blogger of mine calls herself the Reluctant Entertainer.) That’s not my point. I’m not even saying that a well-appointed patio is a bad thing.
I’m just trying to get at the heart of the matter here. When we talk about hospitality, what exactly are we saying? Is this going to be 31 days of tips and tricks and recipes for party planning with an extra post about the rules of etiquette? Is it going to be a series of lessons on buying the perfect bottle of wine or setting a proper table? Somewhat. Those practicals certainly can be helpful.
But, I want it to be more than that. Tips and recipes are great tools to use in carrying out hospitality. But, they’re not hospitality. I’m afraid a lot of us are busy perfecting awesome recipes without really even touching the heart of hospitality. Friends, can we please just stop that? Or at least try to? Instead, let’s get back to the heart of it. To get below the surface and ask the question “why?” Why do I care about planning a good meal? What is motivating me to set a beautiful table?
Because I’ll be honest, my friends. I think the art of hospitality is fading. I think we’ve piled so much other junk on top of it, that we’re smothering it. We’re choking it out with expectations and standards of perfection and overly busy lifestyles and our own search for significance and the dual traps of comparison and covetousness. We’ve made it about us. And our stuff.
Before you give it up, let’s give a shot at getting to the heart of it. Because I think it’s pretty important to God. And if it’s important to Him… well, you know, it ought to be important to us.
So, what now, you ask? First, I’m going to stop talking for a sec. So, that you have a minute to think. I want you to ask yourself what comes to mind when you think about hospitality. And, please be honest with yourself. Does it evoke warm thoughts or stressful thoughts? What (or who) shapes your view of hospitality? Do you think you’re hospitable? Can you think of others who are? What is it about them that makes them hospitable? Do you think there is a difference between entertaining and hospitality? What are the differences?
Stew on that for a bit and come back over the next few days for my working definition. It’s a work in progress and full of fresh conviction for me as I’ve been pondering it the last few weeks. But, I’ll offer what I can and we’ll embark on this thing together.
This week, we’ll look at the heart of hospitality, some examples of hospitality, and the obstacles I see that hinder us from hospitality.
Grace and peace to you as you ponder,
This post is the second in a series of 31 days of posts where I’ll be exploring the topic of hospitality. If you missed Day 1, you’ll want to go here to get caught up. I’m linking up with other 31 Dayers here, if you’re intrigued and you’d like to see more or check out some other bloggers who are writing on a variety of topics. I’d love it if you came back to join me for all 31 Days so feel free to subscribe and get my little blog delivered right to your inbox. You can do so in the top right corner of this page.