When I was a newly married woman and staff member of a church's college ministry, I was fearless about hospitality. A visiting dignitary ate Sunday brunch in our tiny, sloped ceiling kitchen. Fifteen to twenty students gathered for fellowship in a living room that seated four. I loved pouring over cookbooks to get the menu right. The apartment was cleaned the way my motel maid mother taught me. I organized and executed the grand plan, usually with a theme. I was in control of the details.
My resources grew when I moved to a house, acquired more cooking skills, and subscribed to home magazines. Before long, I perceived these blessings as increasing my level of responsibility and my chances for looking bad. My newly-acquired flower bed was always weedy. Seven rooms took longer to clean than three. I encountered a higher margin of error while cooking complicated dishes. I still practiced hospitality (see I Peter 4:9), but now it was mixed with grumbling. I was losing control of the details.
I added my requirements to what God wanted me to do and felt burdened in the process. What if someone dropped in unexpectedly and found out that my home was not spotless all of the time? Would I disappoint them if I served cookies from the store instead of making my famous homemade ones? I wanted to control everything, including my image. With my self-centered attitude, I wasn't as eager to extend hospitality to others.
Then one day, I attended a ministry seminar where the speaker say, "Let them see your dust." This helped me realize that while I was busy raising the bar for myself, I was discouraging other women. My idea of hospitality was impossible to do, a burden and not a joy.
What a radical idea that a dusty home could be a ministry to others! Tolerating some weeds, dust and store-bought food leaves me with more time to concentrate on the real reason for hospitality...reflecting the welcoming character of Christ. I want my guests to experience a warm, loving reception that will encourage them to love God more. And, my new relaxed style promotes a hospitality that doesn't require impressing others with the domestic arts.
I still grumble about the ministry of hospitality from time-to-time. Sin patterns persist. But, mostly, I plan to let people see my dust. I hope you can do the same.