How to be radically hospitable when you’re an introvert

I fluffed up feather pillows but the guest room still felt barren. I draped scarves across the walls and stuck red Dollar Store flowers in a glass vase, but is it ever enough?

The Lulu Tree board is coming to visit this June, upwards of 10 women in our home; our executive director, Carol Masaba, is flying all the way from Uganda. And I am all kinds of excited and scared and decorating like mad because suddenly I’m doubting everything. Because we try to live frugally and we’re proud of it, until someone comes to stay and then I begin to envy the Jones’.

And I forget. I forget what the monks are famous for. I forget what St. Benedict taught the world: that hospitality is radical. It’s not about having a certain thread count or brand of throw rug; it’s not about a cinnamon smell when people enter the home or vacuumed floors.

It’s about providing rest for the weary traveler. A refuge from the world, a place to be accepted, a place to find quiet.

Nestled in northern Canada amongst the fields we have a lot of quiet. It’s broken only by the sound of birds and the trip of deer across the road. I hear God, here. I find him tucked in the languid spaces between our couch and the washing machine, between the hum of the fridge and the laughter of boys on the trampoline.

This introverted woman shies from hospitality yet it’s being redefined for me through Benedict and I can offer this – “Let everyone that comes be received as Christ.” It’s the Benedictine rule of hospitality. Christ didn’t need microfiber sheets. He was homeless. He was just grateful for a bed. He got so hungry he ate grain from a field. He was just grateful for a meal.

Offering potential

“Hospitality does not focus on the goal of being hospitable. It is not about the one offering hospitality. Instead, it is singularly focused on the object of hospitality – the stranger, the guest, the delightful other. [. . .] Monastic hospitality creates sacred space where the guest is free to be alone, to enter silence, to pray and rest” (Lonni Collins Pratt, Radical Hospitality).

What if we didn’t focus on the absence of things but on the presence of God? The loaves and fishes concept? What if we weren’t so focused on lack as we were on the potential for abundance? What if we believed so much in God, the Maker of something from nothing, that we were willing to offer him everything? Our houses, our food, our time, our retirement money? Twelve baskets leftover, one for each disciple; leftover – because God loves us that much. And it’s all his to begin with.

God can’t bless what he doesn’t have.

I think of our Lulu mamas, of Amina – who doesn’t know any English – and how she heard the Lord tell her to “SHARE.” What does this word mean? she asked the other mamas, and she told them how she’d seen a well in the middle of a garden and all of the mamas and daughters gathered around that well and the Lord telling them to SHARE. These women who live in a slum. Who eat one meal a day if they’re lucky. Who sleep on mats on the dirt. God wants them to share.

All she had

The day after Amina shared this word from the Lord, Margret – a recent widow and mother of three young children – brought avocados for everyone. This may not seem like much, but avocados are her very livelihood. She sells them each day to make enough money to feed her children supper. If she doesn’t sell enough, her kids don’t eat and neither does she. But she brought these avocados and handed them out to the mamas, and two for our staff workers, because she wanted to be obedient to God. THAT was more important to her than anything else. She wasn’t focused on her lack, but rather on the potential for abundance. She wasn’t focused on the absence of things but on the presence of God.

It’s the story of the widow’s offering in Luke, the woman who “out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (21:1-4).

Share. Our lives, our everything. We’re taught to do it in kindergarten, yet it takes a lifetime to learn.

But when we do? It changes the world. One avocado at a time.

Author

  • Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of a non-profit working in Africa and Asia.

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