By: Emily Stimpson
Last night was a Thursday night. Which means that my house was filled with friends and food and babies. Like they do every Thursday, my guests arrived around six in the evening, bearing both children and wine. Most piled into the kitchen, doing their best to keep out of my way while I finished dinner preparations, and, as always, failing miserably in that attempt. I pushed the same person away from the stove no less than six times. I poured hot oil over a vat of pasta while a two-year-old ran in between my legs. I inquired politely about everyone’s day, chatted with a five-year-old about her new haircut, and admired no less than four infants, all while getting dinner on the table. The next hour and a half was the usual blur of 20 plus adults eating and talking in the living room, while the children ran upstairs and down, shaking the very windows with the movement of both their feet and their vocal chords. There were only 12 of them, but somehow there seemed to be 30. That, I have decided, is because small children tri-locate.
After dessert, one or two kind souls took to the kitchen to get the dishes underway. At eight, the families left. By ten, the single people were gone as well. I washed the last of the dishes, stacked the folding chairs in the basement, threw a few dolls into the toy box in the living room, and, sometime after eleven-thirty, collapsed into bed. That routine will repeat itself next week, and the week after, and the week after that. It will, in fact, continue as long as I can make it continue. As crazy and chaotic as the evening always is, it is still a joy and delight. It is the hardest and most exhausting thing I do each week. It is also the most important. In the six years I’ve hosted this dinner, I’ve seen babies born, grow into children, and form fast friendships with one another. I’ve seen their parents form friendships too-perfect strangers once, family now. We cook meals for one another when new little ones arrive, travel across the country together when parents pass away, and fix each other’s roofs when storms strike. Even though most of us are far from our siblings and parents, none of us lack the help we need to get through the wild days and nights of our lives.
And that’s why my friends come to this dinner, week after week. They come because they need to. They need the company and the chance to talk, laugh, and break bread with others. They need friendship. They need community. So I open my house every Thursday. Sometimes I do it more graciously than others, but I do it nonetheless. I give the gift of my hospitality, however imperfectly, so that community can flourish. That’s what hospitality does: It builds communities. It calls us out of ourselves, out of our own families and worlds, and connects us to our neighbor. It challenges us and blesses us, enabling our lives and our children’s lives to be enriched by people with gifts, personalities, and wisdom different from our own. Practicing hospitality has taught me that. It’s taught the same to generations of women who’ve presided over dinner parties, poured afternoon tea, and set a place for a stranger at their table. Giving the gift of hospitality isn’t easy, not for me or anyone else, married or single. It requires sacrifices of time and money. It requires making yourself vulnerable to the judgments of others. It often requires setting your own desires aside. And today, giving that gift may be harder than ever, the postmodern world having turned women’s lives into such a tangled skein of commitments and demands that finding time to invite one more person into our home can seem all but impossible.
But it’s not.
My Thursday night dinners are a singular thing, done on the scale required to prevent a single woman from falling completely into the abyss of selfishness. But there are a thousand smaller ways to practice hospitality. Hosting bridal luncheons, throwing the occasional cookout, or simply inviting a friend over for coffee are all ways to build community and show our love for Christ by loving our neighbor. All are occasions for “entertaining angels unaware” (Heb. 13:2). Giving the gift of hospitality is what Scripture calls women to do. 1 Timothy 5:10 instructs that no widow is to be cared for unless she has “shown hospitality.” That’s also what so many people, living amidst the loneliness and alienation of this post-modern world, are calling out for women to do: to be as generous and as welcoming as they can, even in the midst of their own crazy chaotic lives. If you answer that call, you will, of course, be inviting only more craziness and chaos into your life. But you will also be inviting angels. And they will bless you for that.
Credit to Emily Stimpson of EmilyStimpson.com