When we first joined our church, I jumped at the chance to participate in the class they offer to help you figure out where you’re best suited to serve. The class combines a spiritual gift inventory with an outline of the various ministries in the church and what specific needs are currently available. I’ve always enjoyed reading about and studying spiritual gifts, but it had been a while since I took an inventory. The results were about what I’d expected and I headed into the second part of the class (matching up with ministry opportunities) with a pretty solid idea of what I was looking for. And then, during the introduction the presentation, the pastor said something that made me blink. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard it before, but that day, for whatever reason, the truth of it finally hit me. He said that regardless of your gifts, you needed to be prepared to exercise all the spiritual gifts when the opportunity arose.
What? Wasn’t the point of having my gifts identified at least partially to get me out of the things that made me uncomfortable? Those service opportunities that were so far outside my comfort zone that they might as well be in a different zip code?
The answer was no. Those without the gift of evangelism are still called to share Christ. Those without the gift of teaching may still find themselves in a position of instruction. And all of us are called to hospitality.
My heart sank. My mother has an amazing gift of hospitality. I grew up moving out of my bedroom to sleep on the floor in their room (or my sister’s room, or the basement) any time there was a traveling choir/youth group/missionary/etc. going through town who needed housing. As soon as I saw those needs in the bulletin, I would groan and start adding up the days that I’d spend helping clean, sleeping on the floor, changing sheets and towels, and making bag lunch after bag lunch. And sure enough, our house was always full. Inevitably at some point during that stay, Mom would ask me to play the piano for our guests and sing. And my little introverted soul would shrivel. I hated performing. Inevitably at some point, Mom would remind me of 1 Peter 4:9 and so, since it was the right thing to do, I did it. But maybe not quite without grumbling.
Even if it wasn’t out of town guests, our house was full with friends coming for dinner or over for tea. Some of my fondest memories as a young child are mixed with falling asleep listening to the rumble of daddy’s voice, mom’s laughter, clinking spoons on tea cups, and quiet conversation as whatever group of adults in the living room carried on after the kids had been sent to bed. But when I grew up, I knew that hospitality wasn’t going to be my thing. It worked for Mom, because it’s one of her gifts. But I did not have that gift.
And then I encountered God’s sense of humor. We’re leaders for our small group at church and in addition to teaching the Bible studies, it falls to us to encourage and foster community and connection in our group. Which means socializing. Now, my gift of administration can organize a party lickety split…but I can never find a volunteer to host. We have people volunteering to bring food and games and something for the kids to do, but open their home?
I get it. I do. You have to clean before they come, put on your best hostess smile while people are there, and then clean up again after they leave. Having people over when you lack that inherent joy in hosting is hard. It turns the prospect of a two or three hour pot luck with friends into an all day affair. It means you spend an hour scrubbing soda out of your carpet because someone wasn’t watching the three year old quite as carefully as they ought. It means dishes get dropped, and maybe broken. It means you can’t up and leave when your introverted person limit has been reached.
And yet we’re called to do it. Without grumbling.
In my February release, Operation Valentine, the heroine is so hesitant to partake in social interactions that she hasn’t bought a couch. There are some other reasons behind this lack of purchase, but getting out of hosting is definitely something she considers a perk. But she begins to realize that having social connections is worth the pain of getting out of her comfort zone.
This month has been full of hosting opportunities. I’ve dreaded them, staring down the anxiety that filled my chest as they grew nearer day by day. And yet now, looking at them from the other side, I’m glad I was willing to step up and say, “We can have it at our house.”
What about you? Do you enjoy hosting? Have there been times when you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone and hosted anyway? How’d it go?