I grew up believing that the only way to show hospitality was to be the host for some event. It had to be a lavish affair, and it had to follow a certain formula. You needed to be wearing an apron, high heels, and pearls—and naturally be offering a four-course meal. Now that I have a ten-month-old daughter, formal dinners are, more than ever, off the table for me.
Still, I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering the idea of hospitality and what it might look like for my life. That’s when I began Better Together, a four-week Bible study and prayer journal for women about rethinking hospitality. With the help of a little journaling and prayer, I’m realizing that hospitality includes more than fancy mealtimes. It begins with openness and welcome and bears fruit in stronger relationships and a sense of community.
Imperfectly Beautiful. There’s a story in Better Together about Mary, a woman who kept an open-door policy at her house even when her daughter’s chronic seizures made them homebound. Mary served coffee and muffins to guests, and they kept her company while the dishes sat unwashed and dust bunnies floated past. Mary shared her wisdom borne from experience:
Here’s the thing. . . . It’s never going to look like you want it to. There will be imperfect situations filled with awkwardness and times of frustration. But if we remain true to who God made us to be and trust that whomever he brings to our door was meant to be there, it’s in those vulnerable moments when the truth of the gospel shines through. That’s where community is born and mercy is shown as we become the face of Christ to one another.
A lot of my energy goes toward caring for my little baby these days, but Mary’s words reminded me that there are still plenty of opportunities for me to show hospitality—and receive grace in return—as I talk to friends and strangers alike.
Where Mom and Missionary Intersect. As the days pressed on in Better Together, certain Bible verses challenged me to live out hospitality, not in the cookie-cutter way I had grown up understanding, but in my daily life. One of the Scriptures from the journal lodged itself in my memory:
You glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them. (2 Corinthians 9:13-14).
I had been thinking about this for weeks, not sure how to share the “gospel of Christ” outside my usual circle of people. I flipped open my copy of Better Together and found myself thinking about how I would “glorify God by [my] obedience.”
During Lent I had started praying the Rosary more often, and I was trying to continue into the Easter season. Meditating on the Sorrowful Mystery about the Lord’s obedience to death on the cross, I thought back to that verse from 2 Corinthians. At the time, I was sitting in a Hobby Lobby parking lot with the car windows down as my little one napped in the backseat. Looking in my rearview mirror, I noticed a man with a tattooed face approaching my car. I felt unafraid, as if God was encouraging me to let him approach in peace.
He stood outside my window and said, “Are you praying? I recognize those beads.” I answered that I was praying the Rosary. He asked me questions about Catholicism, and I answered them as best I could. Then he asked, “Do you believe in Jesus and the Holy Spirit?” I said, “Of course I do!”
A grin formed across his face, and he asked if we could pray together. I looked in the backseat at my sleeping baby and thought, why not? We bowed our heads and took turns praying. Afterward, my new acquaintance, Derek, said he had felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in our prayer. He said he was happy that we had met. I returned the sentiment, and we went our separate ways.
Before reading Better Together, I would have avoided the tattooed guy in the parking lot. But afterward, I found myself more open to God using me in daily encounters. My small yes to the simple practice of reading and journaling about Scripture brought the Holy Spirit into my life, as well as Derek’s, in a profound way.
Moving Mountains of Fear. What about fostering deeper community in my inner circle? Some of the ideas that I discovered in Better Together, like going to Mass with friends or having them over for dinner, were familiar to me. But there was one example that would require me to overcome fear: the fear of imposing my faith, making someone uncomfortable, or being awkwardly at a loss for words.
It was simple enough. A contributor to Better Together named Elizabeth wrote about sharing her personal struggles with a friend who offered to pray for her right there in the moment. The spontaneous prayer became a conduit of grace far beyond what human wisdom could offer.
This story challenged me. As I journaled, I realized that I needed to stop trying to come up with the perfect words for my friends and just say something, trusting that the Holy Spirit would give me the words.
Shortly thereafter, the moment came: an opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit into a phone conversation with a friend. After my friend had poured out her heart, it felt perfectly natural to ask if I could pray for her needs right then. To my surprise, she softly said, “Sure.” The prayer didn’t move mountains for her, and her problems were not all solved in a moment, but mountains of fear moved out of my own heart.
Space to Reflect. The very first journaling prompt in Better Together had asked what my hopes were as I completed the study. I wrote down, “To actively participate and be strengthened in the workings of the Holy Spirit; to live the Lord’s will abundantly.” And that’s exactly what has been happening.
Prayer journaling was the excuse I needed to pause and reflect on God’s word and his will. When we provide the Holy Spirit the space, when we are hospitable to God and allow him into every moment of every day, he acts. He makes the stranger a friend. He removes our long-held fears. And he takes our desires and amplifies them in a way that can only be attributed to his grace.
Meagan Sullivan lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her daughter and husband.
The truth of God’s word and the wisdom of other women can stir our hearts, as they did for Meagan. Better Together by Take Up & Read (144 pp) has tangible tools for extending gracious hospitality that builds meaningful relationships. To order, visit wau.org or amazon.com