How in the world can you love more by inviting someone into your home? By hosting others, you’ll experience a lot of love and joy, all while blessing someone else.
Should I? Or shouldn’t I?
My finger hovered above the send key in my carefully thought-out e-mail. Would my new acquaintance think I was absolutely ridiculous if I invited her family over for dinner? We just met and hit it off, and naturally the first thought that came to mind was “I want to get to know her better!”
But how, exactly, can you really get to know a stranger better these days? And how do you begin to bridge the gap from friendly stranger to friend? Facebook stalking felt out of the question, since it seems like it’s too many details about a person too quickly. Whatever happened to the old custom of taking your time while getting to know someone else over sincere conversations?
Maybe coffee would be a good option, but with a busy schedule, I couldn’t commit to finding time to get away from my kids and work and go sit at a coffee shop. No, dinner would work. My kids are always interested in making new friends, and my husband and I are, too. Plus, even though dinner seemed like a big deal, everyone needs to eat – we might as well do it together.
And so, I sent my virtual invitation, hoping the idea would be appealing.
The Investment of an Invitation
Over the past ten years, this same scenario has played itself out in my home countless times. When I meet someone I’d love to get to know better, immediately I think of ways to get together and start building some sort of a friendship.
This kind of bold invitation seems highly unlikely for an introverted person like myself. Yet I value relationships and know from experience that you’ll never know when you might meet a friend. Just like the old Girl Scouts song lyrics said, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”
And as I’ve made invitations – and meals – I’ve realized that all you need to invest is a couple hours. But what you might gain is a lasting friendship. And that seems like an incredible return on your investment.
Why Host Others?
If you’re ever on the fence about hosting – or actually dread the thought of getting your home ready for guests – you can always look at your invitation to others as a perfect motivation to clean. Sometimes it can be downright difficult to feel motivated to take care of things around your house. But as soon as you know someone’s coming over, all of a sudden you have a reason to get working.
That motivation is a really good thing! Just think – you might get a clean house and a friend out of a simple invitation.
If you’re concerned about your actual home – either what your guests might think, or if you’re worried about what you have or don’t have, take a deep breath. It’s OK. All people want is YOU. They don’t really care about a perfect house.
Most people are so starved for relationships that the opportunity to actually get together with someone else is pretty amazing.
As Melanie Dale explained in her book, Women Are Scary, if inviting someone over to your home is on your radar, do it. And keep doing it. Not everyone thinks about hosting or wants to initiate it, yet people need time together.
“The ability to initiate is a gift. It takes thick skin and motivation. If you’re an initiator, whether you know it or not, people appreciate you and need you around. … If you’re naturally gifted at introducing people, pulling people together, and inviting people to do things, don’t stop. We need you.”
So let go of your fear (or obsession) of perfection – whether you wish you had a perfect home, perfect food, or perfect family. The most obvious reason to forget this is that no one is perfect! No matter what others might appear to be like, everyone’s a hot mess in some way.
When you’re finally mentally prepared to host, it’s OK to start thinking of get-together possibilities. If dinner seems like too much of a commitment, try a lunch date. Or, better yet, brunch. (Breakfast food can be simple and delicious!) Or, an afternoon tea or coffee break is a super easy start.
As you mull over what kind of gathering you’d like to host, if it’s beyond a quick, super informal get-together, think about menu possibilities. You don’t have to worry about anything fancy, but what are some of your tastiest dishes you enjoy making? What do people rave about?
If you don’t want to take care of the entire meal, don’t. Most people ask what they can bring. Take them up on their offer! (Side dishes and desserts are great things to delegate.)
Once you have some ideas of what you’d like to do and who you’d like to invite, then you can look at possible dates and times – then make your ask.
After you’ve thought about what you’d like to host, what you might need to do around your home to prepare, and after you’ve invited your guests, start carrying out some of your plans. If you know your home needs cleaned before the date of your get-together, start cleaning little by little now. Go grocery shopping.
What Does an Invitation Have to Do with Love?
You might be wondering what love’s got to do with all of this. How in the world does love get entwined with inviting someone over for a meal?
Once you start inviting people over to your home – not to entertain them, but to welcome them into your life and home in hospitality – you’ll discover that love has everything to do with it. It’s love that compels me to keep inviting people over – whether they’re strangers to our family or dear friends and family who have sat around our family table dozens of times.
Love’s the secret sauce that helps you realize everyone wants to be seen and heard. Everyone wants to be included. As you realize that, it’s easy to invite people into your life. And it’s easier to open your door as a way to get to know people beyond a friendly, surface level acquaintance.
Know that your invitation is a way to make someone feel like they matter. Because they do! You want to spend time with them.
If you choose to host people because you want to get to know them better, you’ll be able to let go of an obsession with perfection. And as you truly want to give of yourself through hosting, your time spent with guests will look and feel more like a gift to them.
After all, being willing to host means you’re willing to give your time as you prepare, host, and clean up, as well as giving your money (someone needs to buy the food!) and your home. Plus, you may sacrifice sharing a bunch of details about your own personal life as you ask questions about your guests’ lives and sincerely listen. Some of those gifts may feel like a big sacrifice.
But as you give of yourself and your resources – and give it in the comfort of your own home – you’ll receive a gift, too. Instead of only giving, you’ll receive the joy of watching someone else be able to relax and enjoy a meal around your table. You’ll get to know someone in a deeper way. And you might even enjoy great conversations and good laughs as you visit.
Giving When You Have Nothing to Give
I’ll admit that sometimes my biggest hesitation in inviting someone else over to my home is the time commitment. When life feels so busy, it’s easy to doubt I’ll have enough time or energy to prepare my home, let alone prepare a meal.
Yet I’ve found that as I step out in faith and trust God to provide what I know I don’t have, He does provide. Every single time.
- When I feel exhausted and like all I want to do is curl up on my couch and relax, I choose to invite people over anyway. Somehow I have enough energy to prepare my home and a meal. And by the time my company leaves, I feel refreshed by our conversations.
- When I feel like I have nothing to make, I schedule the dinner date anyway. By sticking to a few go-to menu ideas, the meal is ready in time for my company. Except for being concerned about food sensitivities, I’ve stopped worrying if people will like the food or not – hopefully they will. But if they don’t, it’s just one meal. And it’s one meal they didn’t have to prepare for themselves. Since my family would eat that meal anyway, it’s more fun to share it with others.
- When I wonder who we should invite to our home next, someone always comes to mind. Since my family has discovered a lot of joy through hospitality, we keep a running list of people we’d like to spend more time with – families, singles, and couples. During busy seasons of life we try to fit in dinner with guests once a month. When life is going along at a normal pace, we invite someone over once a week.
Instead of getting stuck in a comfortable rut of only spending time with my family every night, I choose to reach out to others in love.When I do push aside my own comfort and put others before myself, I’m filled with much more joy than I would if I only focused on my own desires.
Since Jesus was very clear that His followers should be known by their love, I’m convinced that staying in a comfortable bubble doesn’t achieve that very well. I’d rather step out of my comfort zone and try to love people well by opening my home.
Whenever I do invite people into my life and home so I can dote on them for a few hours and invest in their lives, I’ve found that my love only grows and grows.
It’s like magic – even though I feel like I have very little to give, the Lord multiplies it into something beautiful.
Will you? Or won’t you?
You may be a natural at hosting guests. Or the thought of welcoming someone into your home and life might make you a little queasy. I challenge you to take a step of faith and just try it. Don’t worry about if your meal or home is good enough for your company – just concentrate on getting to know them better and decide to try to love them well. People just want to spend time with you.
Every single time I decide to invite someone into my home, I catch myself in a moment of hesitation. Will this person want to spend time with my family? Will my home and cooking be adequate enough? Will it seem too odd to get an invitation from me?
Yet even with every hesitation, I choose to say yes. I know I can step out in faith, make an invitation, and watch my love grow more than I ever imagined as I open the door of my home and host others.
How have you watched God work through hospitality in your own life? Have you ever noticed you’re able to love more by hosting others?
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All images courtesy of Unsplash.