A few thoughts on Biblical Hospitality
On a long weekend trip to see my husband’s family in TN, there was a moment after all the activities had died down and a few of us were up late talking, that my lovely, future sis in law mentioned something about the pros and cons of different cultures relating to hospitality and food.
We had an amazing meal for lunch that day, btw. We weren’t complaining. 🙂
Today while I was cleaning my messy house, my mind kept coming back to some of the things we talked about.
All of us talking had grown up in a conservative Mennonite culture, but have had the chance to experience others as well.
One of the taught principles in plain circles is hospitality. It doesn’t always look the same in every home, but procedure is generally similar when acted on.
These are some of the things I remember growing up:
It’s very normal to invite a big crowd over for lunch after church, and in my experience, it’s never been a small meal.
Those who who were raised in Mennonite culture know that the women can cook. Most of them aren’t professional chefs cooking gourmet foods, but they are skilled at making delicious meals of large quantities and variety, either for a large family or for guests.
There’s often meat, potatoes, sometimes several different kinds of vegetables, salad, applesauce, and sometimes more than one kind of cream cheese desert or delight or cake or pudding. There’s either a tea or punch, or perhaps just water instead. Then after everyone is stuffed, there’s coffee.
My mom and all her daughters cleaned houses for a living after my dad died, and the cleanliness difference between non Mennonite and Mennonite homes was usually vastly different, with some exceptions. Being a guest for a Sunday lunch in a Mennonite home, I noticed the houses were very clean.
Mennonite women can clean too. 🙂 There’s spring cleaning and fall cleaning which involves washing walls, windows, curtains, carpets, closets, drawers, and basically deep cleaning the whole house, especially in areas that aren’t cleaned on a weekly basis. I’m sure this varied in homes, but generally I’d say most homes also did a weekly Friday or Saturday cleaning. Dust, vacuum, sweep, mop, scrub bathrooms, sweep front porch, shake rugs.
The kitchen floor either got swept every day or at least several times a week.
I appreciate growing up learning those things. Not saying I do all of them that way anymore, but I appreciate knowing how to keep my house clean and cook for my husband. It’s good to know. I definitely don’t ever want my house to look like some I’ve cleaned growing up!
[I’ve even gone farther into pioneering with my homemade laundry detergent. 🙂 What a good pioneer. Ha.]
My mom fed us kids very well. If we were hungry we ate food. But we didn’t eat like kings all the time, and I’m glad. (Partly because we were very busy with jobs and school, etc after Dad died)
Mom made more extravagant foods and deserts for special occasions, but I am so glad she didn’t have a desert for every meal. Every once in a while there’d be a chocolate cake around, but there weren’t cookies and cakes on hand all the time. Desert for every meal is a novelty I still don’t understand. A human body was not made for all that sugar. A treat is one thing, but a treat every day is a little overboard.
There certainly wasn’t sweet tea in the fridge 24/7. May God rebuke me if I ever start that habit. 🙂 It just isn’t necessary. I did treat my family to southern sweet tea when they visited for the weekend. There was a lot of tea consumed. Parties are exceptions. :p
I haven’t had a cavity in my life, and I gladly give partial credit to my eating habits growing up. (That and my mom said her health was very good during her pregnancy with me. I feel blessed with good teeth. haha. )
I am also glad we weren’t rich. I feel so privileged with a lifestyle growing up without thousands of dollars on hand. It was hand to mouth. It was always enough though. When there wasn’t enough to pay the bills, a random check appeared in the mail just in time. I learned early on that money is necessary, but God is in charge of the bank, and He will provide. He is a rich Dad! I learned it in my heart from experience and watching my mom. God takes incredible care of the fatherless and widow.
Anyone who grew up rich has my sympathies. No offense, but you missed out on an incredible childhood. :p I wasn’t always content. I wanted a lot of things we couldn’t afford, but I had more fun with what I did have and could afford than I ever would have with a huge house and without a financial care in the world. Being set for life by a rich dad must be nice, but I feel blessed with the life I had, and still do. I want to pass on that legacy of trusting God for our futures more than man’s efforts. Less is more in a lot of different areas.
Money is needed for life. But it isn’t what life is all about.
How can I learn faith if everything in my life is possible within my own strength? I appreciate God creating opportunity to rely on Him. There is still opportunity every day.It just spares me a lot of stress.
I have so much respect for my mom who raised us for 8 years alone and still has a son at home. She taught me by example that God is a Provider. It doesn’t matter what people think. God is the Father, and He takes care of His children.
Back to culture:
I often remember the men of the house rubbing their full stomachs and chewing the fat while the women cleaned up the massive kitchen mess. Thy’d brag about their wife’s cooking and how she loves him so much because she makes so much good food for him.
Personally, I don’t think it’s love to feed my husband giant meals that would eventually make him fat and clog his arteries and give him a heart attack. I’m more worried about the quality of life. And he is too.
(My husband helps me cook, and he helps me clean up. That is something he wants his kids to learn: To respect and honor the women in their lives and carry the load more. So he is doing it himself. I am so blessed to have a non-traditional man who did not let culture define who he was, but became who he felt God called him to be, including a different husband than he was used to seeing. I love him.)
My husband loves when I make barbecue meatballs and potatoes. I do sometimes, but eating fatty meals like that is not a traditional habit around here, and I’m glad. He also loves when I feed him light foods. If I make a salad or a sandwich with homemade whole wheat bread and a raw fruit smoothie, he is so content and thankful. He works hard, and is not hard to please.
Last night I made spaghetti from scratch and tossed salad. (carrots, raisins, lettuce etc.)We also had applesauce and water. That was all. It’s enough. It’s good to eat enough, but not extravagantly 24/7.
“We do not have to eat the way we do. A person does not need to gorge on meat and potatoes and several different kinds of veggies and desert and tea all the time. ”
My future sis in law is in college, and she was telling me how differently her college friends view food than the culture I was just talking about. They come over, expecting to have fun together more than to feast. If there’s not enough to totally go around, there’s more opportunity to share, and everyone will just eat less. No one feels bad. They just like being together, and they eat what’s there.
Most college kids probably don’t cook, and it’s super nice that my sis in law can and does more than others, but I think there’s a lot to learn from other cultures too.
I don’t want to expect myself to have the best of everything and stress myself planning big feasts. Since we’ve been married we’ve had guests, and I did make a big meal. It was a treat. It was ok. The food was good, but I don’t want to make a habit of massive expectations for hospitality.
Because I’m not sure if we understand real hospitality.
I want to invite people over for the pleasure of their company. Yes, I can make food, but I’d like to think they wouldn’t mind if we just had coffee, you know? We don’t need to expect big meals, or get used to that lifestyle. We are so spoiled.
I love knowing how cook special meals, but why can’t we make tacos or an easy casserole to serve to guests sometimes? I’d rather people leave saying, “Wow, there is something incredible in that home. I want to go back,” more than, “Wow, that was good food.”
I hate when a wife is so flustered serving people that she can’t even relax and interact with her guests.
Food is to survive and be healthy. I love food, but I want to learn more about simplicity and contentment more than the art of perfect pie making.
It’s been fun to be friends with some single guys that live around here. (two are my hubby’s cousins) I think sometimes they feel like a bother when they come over, but it is the coolest thing having them around. They drop by unannounced just see whats up.
We rarely formally invite them, but I love it. I genuinely like to see them and have them in my house and eating our food. My standard question when they show up is, “Did you eat?” I rarely have a feast, but if I already made food for just my hubby and I, I just add another veggie or something to make it stretch far enough for everyone. They eat it right up, and I know they are thankful for a woman’s cooking to fill them up.
Once, we had already eaten when someone dropped by, so I made him an omelet while he chilled. So simple. It warms my heart that they come back, and I really doubt it’s just for my amazing cooking. Ha.(Making meals is not something I dream happily about.)
My house is often messy, and if we sit down to watch Andy Griffith, I’m folding a massive stack of laundry at the same time while our “guests” are there. We are able to be very real and very honest about the good things and the bad things of life.
Our schedule doesn’t necessarily stop when they show up, but there’s time for people anyways! I don’t run to clean up. I’ve already been wiping up a bathroom floor, and it was ok.
People don’t want us to have our lives cleaned up when they come. They want to be a part of our real lives.
It’s not wrong to want to give the best to your guests. But more importantly than physical perfection is time that invests in loving even when life keep moving and messes keep being made and cleaned up.
I have such a long way to go in this. I still rush around picking up pillows and closing cabinets when someone shows up unannounced. (Not always) I feel the need to apologize. I don’t want to be like that.
I don’t want to compare myself to others, and I don’t want others to compare themselves to me.
When I have kids, I don’t want to pull them out of a mud puddle when someone comes in the drive or yell at them to pick up toys when there’s a knock at the door. I don’t want them to learn the art of deception. I want to be an example of authenticity. There’s no need to hide.If a person dislikes the toys on the floor they shouldn’t have dropped by.
If God is real to me during the week when stuff isn’t perfect, that real God is who people need to meet in me. Because that is who I am. No one needs a stereotype Christian for a pal.
I don’t want people to meet the cleaned up version of me and God all dressed up for church. I’ll take the real, gritty, moment by moment reality worship with God on Monday, and you may be my friend if you’re ok with that.
I’ve already completely panicked about having a garden and planning meals and cleaning my house. I feel so unqualified at times. My hubby tells me, “Babe, just because Mennonites around here have massive gardens and shelves full of homemade food does not mean you have to. You’re not even Mennonite. If you want to do it that’s fine, but I don’t want you to be my stereotype wife. Be who God made you to be, and if you want to try gardening we will. But I’m way more concerned that you follow God in your calling than being a perfect little house wife.”
Well guess what, when I got over my feelings of condemnation and inferiority, I actually wanted a little garden. And we now have one. The little green sprouts are popping up all over, and it’s a reminder to me that God is doing a new thing in me and us.
It’s God’s garden…this life. He’s the Father of it all, and He waters me daily. 🙂
We all come from different cultures. But our cultures should never define us. No one is entitled to replica the past. Start a new legacy. Don’t just follow what is accepted and normal because it’s all you know. Make good choices based on what God is saying to you, not what God is saying to the rest of the world.
Don’t compare. Live in the moment with Him. Not in their moment. Your moment with God.
Luke 10 has wisdom about hospitality.
[As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”
The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”]
Seems to me worship is a bigger deal than perfection. Right?
If you want your kids to be healthy and fit, start by being healthy and fit yourself You are a unique individual who is accountable to God. You are not accountable to the masses.
I don’t ever want the condition of my house or the quantity of my food to influence my love for others. There are a lot of things I love about homemaking, but it is not my identity. Loving my husband and loving God and loving people is so much more important than perfection. Judge me on my love, but not my cooking. 😀
I personally love when I go into someone’s home and I hear a kid squawk, there’s toys everywhere, but the mom and the dad and the kids are happy and invite me to come in. They are living, and they invited me to be a part of the happy chaos of their real life. What an honor!
It’s no fun trying to be a part of someone’s life when there’s never a toy or dust particle in sight. Living makes messes.Clean up when you can, but have fun. 🙂
If I choose to remember one thing from this post, it is this:
Hospitality is not shiny floors and massive feasts. Hospitality is love. It’s genuine. Honest. Inviting. It says, “I don’t have my life together, but please come in. I will be your friend.”
This world doesn’t need more perfect people. It needs more honest people. More honest friends.
This post is not a slam to those who love cleaning and cooking and laundry or those who don’t enjoy them but do it anyways. I personally enjoy some of those myself, and I DO most of them even if I don’t like it. I just want to make a point of having our identity caught up in worship to God. God honors worship to Him in scrubbing floors and wiping snotty noses, but I don’t think he honors a proud heart that strives to impress.
If I answer the door in a robe, the UPS man just has to understand. My life isn’t a magazine cover. I’m living it!
© Brenda Kanagy