Receiving the Stranger

I tend to feel I am a fairly hospitable person. We have people over weekly. Just a couple nights ago we had several people in our yard. We grilled out and picnicked. Then we roasted marshmallows over the charcoal embers. That's when the neighbor kids started poking their heads over. Which isn't unusual. As I've said before, the majority of the week we have neighbor kids around.

But the kids in the duplex next door have been a harder gang to work with at times. They don't have boundaries--not many at least. And we tend to have issues with the people in the rental. Right now the ones in the half closest to us are very cordial and friendly. They're quiet and don't give us trouble. They've asked for favors, and we've helped them out when we can. They're moving soon because the family on the other side has driven them out.

To be honest, I don't know the other family well. I know a few of the kids. And, to be honest once again, I was a bit annoyed the other night when they "crashed" our marshmallow roasting. I didn't want them around. I wanted a nice evening with our friends.

So tonight, when our friend Lisa preached on hospitality at church, I didn't like listening to the message. Hospitality isn't about how we treat our friends. It's about opening our doors to the stranger and receiving them in (we were looking at Romans 12:9-21). Lisa said that hospitality is "an open posture of the heart that results in a practice of welcome." Clearly, my heart hasn't been that open.

I realized that my heart sometimes--not always, but sometimes--hardens when the neighbors are around. Sometimes I guess I don't always believe that if I share, there will be enough for me at the table. After all, the WIC checks only get food for our kids--not the other two or three who show up. Sometimes I feel angry that their parents aren't more involved in their lives. Sometimes I just want some time when I don't have to be responsible for anyone other than my own kids. And during most of those times, I'm not focused on receiving the stranger. I'm not looking at how I can be blessed through them.

Now, hospitality doesn't mean being a door mat and letting yourself be walked all over (much like as I said during the wedding last weekend that submission isn't about being walked all over, but about being strong enough to serve). Part of being hospitable will mean setting up boundaries. It likely will mean having some lessons in manners and respect. It will definitely involve patience and grace and love.

So I'm especially thankful for the prayer time at the end of worship tonight so that my partner ( bless you, Ardie) could pray for a more open posture for my heart. But as I'm working on it, our picnic table and/or guest room are (almost) always available. Of course, you never know who will poke their head over the fence.


John LeMay said...

I have been at this place many times and continue to work through them. Lisa came up with a sign at one point to create a boundary that she needed for herself, as it became too much. I appreciate your willingness to share and open to the lessons that you are learning.

Kaitlyn Bartling said...

Love that message. Our home struggles to be welcoming and to be more of the Mary than the Martha host, too.

IfallslibraryDiane said...

This was something we struggled with in a previous home. We had to establish boundaries and rules that applied to children wanting to play with our children.

For instance, the children would come over asking to play in the middle of winter with no coat or shoes. So we established a rule that they had to wear shoes and a coat to play in the winter. No it wasn't far, but we didn't want them getting sick or hurt as we would be the people helping, we were all for prevention.

Lisa LeMay said...

The sign I came up with had a picture of a prairie dog on it holding out its hand like a police officer stopping traffic. Under it I wrote, "Do Not Disturb." The neighbor kids it was intended for knew that when the sign was up, our house wasn't available. We didn't use it all the time, just when we needed a breather.

And yes, it is a boatload of work. I get weary of it, too.