In the past year and a half of being married and having a home, I’ve learned (and realised that I have a lot more to learn) about how to open up our home for others. I imagine that a few years from now, I will be setting out a table quite differently than I plan to now, but I thought I’d share a few lessons and tips that I’ve picked up so far.
I’ve learned that in hosting guests, we always walk the line between hospitality and entertainment, and I’ve landed with the conclusion that hospitality is the greater of the two for me. Why?
Because hospitality means vulnerability and entertainment means theatrics.
When I choose hospitality, I mean to choose to open my door and let people in to see whatever mess I happen to be in. When I entertain, I believe that I am on display and that my worth is determined by the quality of my appetizers.
It actually draws a lot of parallels with life in general (I find myself drawing parallels to meeting people for the first time, or being married), but for now let’s talk food and table. Here are a few tips:
- Stop preparing to have guests (whatever that looks like for you) at least a HALF HOUR before guests arrive. You might consider having a glass of wine or reading a bit of a book. Be present, fully there – no one likes to arrive and feel as though their host has been running themselves thin preparing for them.
- Don’t worry about spring cleaning every time a guest comes over (ahem, guilty). If you need to, straighten a bit, but don’t clean. In the same way that it is easier to relate to someone who takes the initiative to be vulnerable and let things hang out, let your home be an accurate representation of what your life is usually like – dust, crowded countertops, used towels, mucky floors and all – not polish and perfection.
- Don’t overcomplicate what you offer in terms of food. I recommend soup and bread/buns (and I have a handy soup series going on the blog if you want to check out a few tested and easy recipes!). If you want to go all out, that’s fine, but you can also grab a baguette and whip up a pot of minestrone. M and I have also shared tuna melts with dear friends that were just the best.
- Be generous, not fancy (this goes with the above point). As followers of the way of Jesus, I believe that we’re always called to be generous (going above and beyond what is expected and giving sacrificially). However, this kind of giving does not follow a formula or quotient. Your goal is not to impress, but to joyfully give of what you have.
All in all, hospitality is about sharing, equal to equal. And sharing without vulnerability is painful: it’s entertainment – carefully positioning yourself so that no one knows that you spent hours scrubbing and cleaning, or that you ruined a couple of recipes before guests arrived.
Guess what? Everyone feels the pressure of hosting and company and everyone is scared of the same judgements and evaluations. Get rid of the show. Share – vulnerably, willingly, generously – and you may find that opening up, whether it’s the door to your home or heart, is that much easier.