If my dining table could talk, it would tell you that I am no Martha Stewart. My cooking is mediocre, and while my gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies score high marks with my husband, my guests seem to prefer the store bought goods I serve. We rarely have a full set of clean glass dishes, but my ability to find really cute napkins prevents people from noticing, or so I hope. While my ambience game is strong, my Gerbera daisies have caught fire on more than one occasion when I placed them too close to my candles. Yet, God has chosen to work through me; an average, or should I say “hazardous” hostess. Over the years, my table has been the setting for countless stories of redemption.
True hospitality isn’t really about lovely ambience, delicious desserts or Restoration Hardware furnishings, as delightful as each of those may be. In fact, I’m convinced it has little to do with our homes at all. Christ-like hospitality is about intentionally cultivating an atmosphere in our hearts where people are invited to come, just as they are, and leave feeling accepted, challenged, loved and affirmed. For all of my fellow Pinterest-fail friends who desire to love others and build life-giving community, there is still hope, because the truth is we host people with our hearts far more than with our homes.
Say Yes in Spite of the Mess
When God invited me to host a women’s small group last summer, our family was preparing to move across the country. Moving boxes, packing supplies, and an assortment of Goodwill piles accessorized our home. My myriad of attempts to find an alternative host home were unsuccessful. It seemed that God wanted to use my normal family with a less-than-perfect-home to host this gathering. I have found that when a mess-free home becomes the prerequisite to hospitality, it rarely happens. Our willingness to love and serve is more than enough. As the hosts, we create the atmosphere in our homes; we create a warm and welcoming environment through what we cultivate in our hearts. If we want people to encounter God’s presence in our homes, then we must intentionally release performance and perfectionism. Grace abounds when we create space for ourselves and our guests to simply come as we are.
Most women - myself included - deal with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. We struggle to live up to the world's false standards of what we should be like in our physical appearance, our intellect, or our personality. Our culture’s lofty and unrealistic expectations combined with the uncertainty of meeting a new group of women can easily heighten insecurity. When insecurity is welcomed into our homes, it steals from our ability to genuinely see and celebrate others; it kills vulnerability and inevitably destroys authentic connection. Ladies, it’s time to name insecurity as an unwelcome guest in our homes. A powerful practice that I implemented last summer was to publicly name insecurity and all of its ugly manifestations (comparison, jealousy, competition) and invite the group to ask it to leave. When insecurity flees, God’s unconditional love invades both the atmosphere and our hearts, and we feel safe and accepted.
Great Hosts Encourage Christ-likeness
A great host deliberately sets out to affirm the inherent value of her guests. The words of blessing that we speak illuminate and affirm the God-given and unique beauty of each guest. Jesus intentionally affirmed each disciple’s value and worth. He spoke to Peter’s potential as the “rock” even when his faith was shakeable. John went from fisherman to “beloved disciple.” Jesus invites each of us to see our guests as He does and speak into their God-given potential. Last summer, I intentionally carved out space before our gathering to pray and ask this question, " Jesus, how do you want to uniquely affirm each guest?" My friend Teea is a successful vice president, supermom to three boys, and an incredible event planner. While she is a very accomplished woman, I sensed that God wanted to affirm her tenacious spirit and perseverance. After praying, I conveyed her worth by writing, “Tenacious Teea” on her name tag. At our first gathering, I introduced each woman by explaining their unique name tag and honoring them. Great hosts celebrate their guests like Jesus.
If your table could talk, what tales would it tell? I pray that our tables testify to God’s faithfulness and redemption and that each chair tells of a guest who was nourished, loved, and accepted in our company. What is one way God is inviting you to become the hostess of such a table?
About Katie Racine
Katie is Minnesota bred and SoCal warmed. She and her husband James currently serve on staff with All Peoples Church in San Diego. Her two daughters, Evelyn and Emma, are her greatest joys. She considers mothering them to be the highest form of discipleship. She has a Masters degree in Spiritual Formation and is passionate about discipling women to walk in freedom and the fullness of their identity in Christ. Running, almond milk lattes, white bistro lights, dark chocolate anything, and writing are a few of her favorite things.