I finished Rosaria Butterfield’s book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World, at the end of March and immediately felt convicted over my self-centered view of hospitality. I grew up in the South and always believed hospitality required a new seasonal centerpiece, fresh baked desserts, and at least one-week notice (though two is preferable). You pull out the nice serving bowls (heaven forbid you serve from the kitchen) and eye your throw pillows so that they don’t get squashed by an unsuspecting husband (who really just wants to take a break from all the preparations).
That’s not what Butterfield’s book is about (you can read my review in this blog post). She challenged my self-serving view of hospitality on the very first page, “Those who live out radically ordinary hospitality see their homes not as theirs at all but as God’s gift to use for the furtherance of his kingdom.”
As soon as I closed the book, I immediately began to pray that God would change my heart and my mind about hospitality. I prayed that he would open the door for me to sacrificially open my doors that his glory may be known, not my own. I prayed this daily, as I started looking for people to invite to my home that I wouldn’t have normally otherwise.
God answered my prayer on Easter Monday, a month later, in a very unexpected way. My husband’s brother and his family of five were coming from Colorado to visit us for a week—two days later.
I still remember Joseph’s call. He started with an apology, “I’m sorry for the late notice, but….” We had been trying to plan a time for them to come visit, but the last talks had been that they would come in June, not the next week! While I love my husband’s family, my own selfish perfectionism jumped into overdrive as I thought of the groceries, linens, etc. that needed to be prepared before their arrival in less than forty-eight hours.
And then God stopped me.
I could almost hear him say, “This is it.”
I put down my pen where I had been furiously scribbling lists, and I dropped to my knees and prayed.
I prayed that I would not be concerned about my own needs but theirs. I prayed my focus would not be on the praise of my cooking, cleaning, or decorating, but on the praise of God on whom our home is founded. I prayed that I would show the grace of God to my guests and to myself. I prayed that I would hold my time and my possessions loosely, freely giving to those around me. I prayed I would practice radically ordinary hospitality.
You see, my husband’s family are not believers, and we have prayed for so many years that they would come to faith. I prayed that God would use our home that week as a means for the Gospel to be shared with his family.
And. God. Answered.
In the most beautiful way. After a rainy week with young kiddos cooped up inside, we took everyone to the zoo that Saturday morning. Afterwards, Joseph and his brother went to a firing range to hang out while my sister-in-law and I brought the kids back for naps. While there, Joseph was able to share the Gospel with his brother in the most complete way he’s ever done and ask about his brother’s beliefs.
It was the first time his brother had ever said he was open to belief in God. The brother who has been a staunch atheist for as long as I have known him. Joseph invited his brother to church with us the next day, and he said yes! It would be the first time he had ever been to an evangelical church.
I prayed all night and morning that the powers of darkness would not hinder us bringing his family to church, and God answered! As they walked in with us, I could feel the love of God exude from our brothers and sisters in our faith family. From nursery drop off to the sermon, they were showing him and his family what it meant to love God and love others.
On our way home, I was “strategizing” with my husband on how we would bring up different elements of the church service for discussion at lunch. Silly me. God was already working in Joseph’s brother’s heart, and his brother quickly began questioning us as soon as we got home.
That was the first of many conversations my brother-in-law would have with Joseph and with pastors at a local church we found for him back home. It would take another blog post to recount every detail of God’s faithfulness over the next month, but on Memorial Day weekend, Joseph’s brother called to tell us that he had surrendered his life to Christ!
We cried with tears of joy, amazed at the mighty working of God in his heart and family. And we praised him for allowing us to be a small part of building his kingdom.
And all it took was us opening our doors to “last minute” guests. I could have said no. I could have selfishly said I needed more time to prepare, to make myself look like the “hostess with the mostest.” But instead, God used my weakness—my mismatched sheets and paper plates—to bring a lost sheep into his kingdom. While I may not have entertained in a manner worthy of Southern Living Magazine, one day we will dine with my brother-in-law and his family forever in eternity at the most glorious dinner party, the marriage supper of the lamb.