Learning Hospitality

With four people and one dog living in our little 1 bed apartment for the last month, life has felt quite full recently. Full, like a cup of hot tea that you have to balance just perfectly, or else burn your hands. Full, like a vas bursting with vibrant blooms. Full, like a car packed tight with traveling things, straps dangling out the doors and just barely enough room to see out the back. Full, like the feeling after a much needed meal, with the pleasant warmth of it heavy in your belly, and the taste still in your mouth. 

We have been challenged in it. More often than not, it felt like a grand Game of human Tetris, as we squeezed by one another in the kitchen, or tripped over one another in the sitting room. Logistics were a constant balancing act, with three adults in the house, but only two sets of keys and no buzzer on the front door of the apartment building. Plans had to be discussed carefully. Phones kept charged. Responsibilities carefully delegated and schedules organized so that everyone could access what they needed at the time they needed it. 

It was a challenge spiritually, finding that when our routine was interrupted we were much less likely to spend the time we needed to with God. It was tricky sometimes emotionally, with lack of space or privacy for all of us, always needing to and often failing to make proper concessions for the other people around us to be cared for. 

It was a challenge as parents of an infant. If she didn’t sleep, would our guests be kept up as well? If she was cranky during the day, would our guests be stressed? 

There were more elements to consider, too, when unexpected things happened. For example, one night our dog woke up one of our guests throwing up. That’s not a fun situation to deal with when it’s just you being woken up, let alone your poor sweet jet-lagged friend who traveled thousands of miles to see you and now is sleeping on your couch. Our tiny, old living space is not the most comfortable spot at the best of times, but now, we were constantly reminded just how unideal it was because we were conscious of the way it might be affecting our friends. Were they too cold? That draft coming in our window is awful. Could they relax in the shower we cannot get properly clean for the life of us? Did they mind how awkward it was to eat meals without a table? Goodness, if only our tiny kitchen had a place to sit. They must be so uncomfortable having to stand in the kitchen, like I do every evening, as my child sleeps in the bedroom and my husband finishes his evening shift in the sitting room.

So yes, we were challenged, but we were also blessed beyond measure, and are more aware than ever of the graciousness of our God who alone can be credited for the gift it is to live somewhere safe and warm, with family and friends that may as well be family close at hand. For all the trickiness that has been involved with our living situation over the last 4 or 5 weeks, we have delighted in laughter together, lovely meals and conversation, time for our guests to enjoy and get to know our daughter, movie nights, wine nights, prayer and Bible time, walks and wanders outdoors, and shared responsibilities around the home.

As thankful as we were to find accommodation a month before we got married, my husband and I (admittedly mostly I) have spent a good deal of the last two years living here complaining about all it’s inconveniences… too small, no table, no tub, moldy, broken appliances… the list goes on, but we have found recently that as God has challenged us to be hospitable even in our small inconvenient space, we have seen his blessing in it multiply greatly. A roof over our heads, indeed, but a place where we can love and provide for dear friends? A place where we can host family? A place where we can give of ourselves, our time, money, and effort to others… a place where the Gospel can be discussed, where, we pray, Christ can be glorified? Wow. That is true blessing. I hope he will do as much and far more in our next home. 

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