Sunday, November 4, 2007

Hospitality Vs. Entertaining

Surely I'm not the only one who has experienced something like this:

You started the morning at a deficit on the "spic and span" scale. Some of the groceries from two nights ago still remain in bags on the kitchen counter. Couch cushions are askew, and it looks like your child's room exploded in the living room. You still haven't gotten a shower. You hope to get one when the kids go down for a nap at 2. Then, there's an unexpected knock at the door. You want to run for cover and dive out of sight, but you know that THEY know you're home. Reluctantly, you open the door and the apologies begin.

"The house is just a mess... I'm so sorry..."

"We've had a rough morning... please excuse the mess..."

In the last post on hospitality, some of the comments got into the expectations that arise from the "Martha Stewart" mentality. I'll never be one to criticize Martha's taste, recipes, decorating tips, or style... she's got an eye for all of those things, and we all could stand to learn things from people who have a natural gifting like that, about how to decorate our homes and cook tasty & nutritious meals, etc.

But there IS something more. Something BEYOND the perfection and presentation that's expected in that kind of "Entertaining" model.

As Karen Mains writes in Open Heart, Open Home,

"Entertaining has little to do with real hospitality. Secular entertaining is a terrible bondage. Its source is human pride. Demanding perfecting, fostering the urge to impress, it is a rigorous taskmaster that enslaves. In contrast, scriptural hospitality is a freedom that liberates.

Entertaining says, 'I want to impress you with my beautiful home, my clever decorating, my gourmet cooking.' Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, 'This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant, and I use it as He desires. Hospitality does not try to impress but to serve."
I have begun to realize that I have bought into the lie that hospitality and entertaining are the same. I have been held back by the paralyzing fear that says, "if I let her see how I really live, I won't be seen as a real woman."

And isn't that the complete OPPOSITE of the truth? Isn't it liberating to walk into a respected woman's home and see that she, too, has a stack of books that she never has managed to put away? Isn't it freeing to see that other young moms have Hot Wheels and blocks all over their floor on the average weekday too? It is for me! The truth is, that if we let each other see how we really live, we will suddenly BE a real woman to our friends. Suddenly, we will no longer appear or have the need to appear perfect. Mains writes, "I had to learn to put away my pride when I open the front door and accept those standing there as they are. Consequently, I expect them to accept me as they find me." FREEDOM!

That kind of attitude and approach to hospitality speaks complete FREEDOM to me. And I hope it does to you too. No longer do I HAVE to have things "together" when someone comes over. No longer do I have to apologize for living real life in our home. No longer do I have to put together a flawless meal, served with special little individual touches for each guest.

I can just be me. If I have the time and ability to prepare an amazing meal, great. But if not, people are welcome just the same. If I have the time to pick up, sweep, mop, and carefully arrange each couch cushion, great. If not, I can still enjoy time with friends without apologies or shame. I can't speak for you, but I'll choose the freedom of hospitality over the bondage of entertaining ANY day of the week!


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