My husband came home one day and told me that he was jealous of this friend of his who invited him over to dinner without having to consult his wife. This friend knew that his wife would be happy to have people over, and that she would not resist it or resent it in any way. I was flabbergasted that this man was so insensitive to his wife that he didn't even consult her when she was required to make a big dinner. It didn't make any sense to me. My husband said that I missed the whole point. He would love for us to have people over more often, and he wanted it to not be stressful.
This conversation coincided with a huge upheaval in my life which revealed an unsubmissive attitude toward my husband. I had determined that I would do something about it, and since this was the first topic that came up, I was determined to start having more people over to dinner.
Of course, Scripture commands us to practice hospitality (I Peter 4:9; Acts 2:46; Romans 12:13), so it's not like I would be sinning. Quite the opposite. I had been sinning by not having people over to dinner. It seems odd to think of that as a sin. What was so important about breaking bread with people, chatting over a meal?
At the time, our small group of Awana leaders included 12 couples, so I decided to have each of those couples over to dinner, along with their kids. That averages one dinner per month, which sounds leisurely, but it wasn't. Some months the children were sick, or we were busy or out of town. Some months it seemed like I was having a dinner once a week just to catch up.
Let me make it perfectly clear that I don't like to cook. And since one of the points of this experiment was for it not to be stressful, I had to think long and hard about what I was going to do.
You see, the last time I had a family over to dinner, I made a dinner from scratch, baked fresh bread, had a fabulous dessert made from scratch as well, and the house was spotless and clean. By the time I sat down to dinner, I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open. And worse yet, the woman saw how I homeschool my children, and she saw my organized house, and she saw all the food made from scratch, and she declared that I was “super mom.” She looked dismayed, like she didn't measure up. She never came over again.
What's the point of that? I asked God to teach me how to be hospitable. I thought I was doing everything right, but I pushed that woman away from God.
While my family was having dinner at someone else's house, I accidentally saw a messy room while I was on my way to the bathroom. The woman of the house blushed and apologized for the mess, and I told her it didn't matter. When I was in the bathroom, I realized that was the truth; it didn't matter.
When this particular family came over to our house the next time, I made sure not to make my bed. Yes, I left it unmade on purpose, and I left the door open. Man, that was hard to do, but God was teaching me how to be hospitable. When the woman saw my unmade bed, she relaxed considerably, and we had a wonderful evening. Maybe that was a lesson in humility. It felt right in my soul.
Then I realized that I should never spend the whole day cleaning when people were coming over. Of course, I am a very organized person, so there's not that much to clean up usually; and if a little bit of a mess makes people comfortable, then I'm fine. I just make sure the bathroom has been cleaned within the last few days. Other than that, I do nothing.
Also, I realized that a Costco lasagna is delicious and requires no work, so all 12 couples (minus one or two) got lasagna for dinner. Salad is easy to make, and I would buy French bread or garlic bread at the store right before dinner. I would light the candles, and the guests would feel special, and best of all, I had energy.
I always prayed that God would bless our conversations, and He did. We bonded with fellow believers in a way that I never knew was possible with so many people. It transformed how I viewed the body of Christ, the church. When I prayed for people, I was praying for my close friends, not just someone whose face I see on Sunday. In fact, going to church filled me with more joy than ever. Imagine a dozen people wanting to hug you on Sunday, wanting to know about your life for real because they know you. We were able to use our spiritual gifts like never before, and I felt like an artery of our church. After church on Sundays, instead of wanting to get out of there, I wanted to stay for hours because of the sweet fellowship. I'm telling you, there is a reason that hospitality is commanded over and over in Scripture, and I'm so glad that I did it!