October 19, 2010

Martha, Martha, Martha

Sometimes, when my house is a mess, I seriously think to myself I hope Oprah Winfrey doesn't knock on my front door. You've probably seen those shows where she surprises a viewer at home, telling them their wildest dream is coming true, like meeting Tom Cruise or getting a home makeover from Nate. On one horrifying episode-- the one that haunts me-- she went door-to-door in an unsuspecting neighborhood, invited herself into the homes of anyone who answered their doors, inspected their refrigerators, and wanted to know what they were making for dinner. 

I don't want Oprah surprising me at home, but there's someone I don't want surprising me even more: Martha Stewart. I make it a rule never to read Martha Stewart Living because even glancing at the cover in the check out line at the grocery store makes my blood pressure go up. "I should be making my own butter?", I ask myself as I put the Doritos on the conveyor belt. I am especially stressed out by the the recipes, party suggestions, and table decorations. It's all way too perfect. And that says something coming from a recovering perfectionist. 
But is this the goal in hospitality? To have placecards, expensive centerpieces, matching placemats, and beautiful table linens? Should we only invite people into our homes when we finally get our lives perfectly together?

Our culture's version of hospitality involves beautiful events with beautiful decor for beautiful people. It's too bad that we Christians often believe this is true hospitality and, therefore, don't invite others into our homes. When we don't practice hospitality regularly, we miss opportunities to invite people to be known, to know us, and to experience a tangible gospel. We also miss opportunities to give and serve.

We miss these opportunities because we worry about the size of our space, the decor in our home, the cleanliness of the bathrooms, or our ability to cook. We're not Martha Stewart, we say. But hospitality is not about setting a scene or a table, it's about connecting over a meal and opening ourselves to relationships. It says: Here is my carpet covered in Cheerios. Here are the dirty dishes in the sink. Here is a pretty basic meal (or takeout). Here are my energetic children. And here I am. You are welcome in my home and in my heart.

"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love....distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality." Romans 12:10,13