Since being married, I don’t recall hosting without Beth acting as Project Lead to get the house ready and bake something delicious. Last Monday I flew solo.
My wife has been out of town for several days, and the house looks like the kids and I are college students. Apparently things are worse than I realized. Someone at church asked how things are without Beth, and my daughter chirped, “Dad went out and bought more corndogs.” (Hey…don’t knock ’em. Seven grams of protein.)
Leading up to the Monday event, I recruited the kids to dust and vacuum and tidy up their things. I attacked the hall bathroom. Scouring, wiping down, polishing – that bathroom came a long way from where it was the day before.
Monday evening turned out to be a great night. The conversation was rich and authentic among the dozen or so who gathered for dessert and discussion. Everyone appeared relaxed and at home as we circled up on the back patio on a beautiful evening.
But very few got up to go to the bathroom.
I should have served more coffee. Or perhaps a backyard fountain with gurgling water would have triggered a pavlovian response to go to the bathroom. As best I could count – and I was counting – only 2 people used the bathroom. Two guests, plus me. I went to the bathroom, but not to pee; I just went to admire the bathroom. The scent of lemony cleaning solution. The streak-free mirror. My reflection in the chrome faucet. The polished porcelain throne from where one could sit and admire the cleanliness of my sterile, one-room kingdom.
I didn’t really process the “why” of my bathroom obsession until Friday evening, while in our good friends’ home. The topic of hospitality came up as we were reading Romans 12. The host was honest enough to admit that having a spotless house didn’t matter to her. And another in the group admitted that the house he grew up in was never clean and orderly, but it was a haven for friends and strangers alike.
As we talked it dawned on me that maybe the word hospitality and hospital are somehow connected. Could it be that both are meant to be environments that facilitate healing?
I’m not sure how or when hospitality became all about a clean bathroom and a beautiful centerpiece and finger foods that outdo the spread laid out by the previous week’s host. I’ve been in some beautiful homes, but not every time has there been healing. Sometimes I walked away having only learned that they had a really clean bathroom.
Beth and the kids and I spend a lot of time every week, several days of the week, with the family who confessed to little concern about the condition of their house. Although I’ve never noticed their house to be dirty or cluttered, I’m pretty sure they don’t frantically clean the house when they find out we are on our way over.
In their home I have encountered healing. In their home, they have offered me food, hugs, and have laid hands on me to pray. In their home I have laughed as well as fought back tears while staring down scary and unpredictable circumstances. I’ve been filled with joy watching our children laugh and grow together. I’ve been reassured of the genuineness of our friendship when we confess to deep fatigue and worry, yet we love one another unconditionally.
Late Friday night, long after the official Life Group time had ended, I walked out to my car more whole, more the “me” that God intends me to be. It was a great evening. How did this happen? They are not interested in seeing their own reflection in a polished faucet; rather, they are content to see Jesus reflected through a hospitable and healing environment.
Let’s invite more people into our homes, into our hospitals. There’s nothing wrong with wiping down a bathroom, but hospitality, as I’m trying to understand it, is meant to heal, not to impress. Hospitality is a place where I am welcomed and accepted, even when my life is as filthy as a bathroom floor.