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Hospitality when hard

“I’m so glad you made it!”

“Come in, can I get you something?”

“I’m so happy to see you!”

These are all things I say frequently when someone comes to my house for a party or even just to hang out for a little while.  The words come easily and are genuine—I truly love making people feel welcome and comfortable.  Despite my introvertedness, having the opportunity to encourage and actively love someone gives me energy.

Usually.

I confess that there are some people who I have a harder time welcoming.  Not necessarily consciously, but I was convicted of this recently.  In a moment of pride I was thinking to myself about how I’ve become a better and better hostess over the years.  And truly I have, because I practice and work at it.  However, that prideful thought was immediately followed by conviction that I’ve been neglecting someone in my immediate circle.  So how can I commend myself for how well I encourage others if I only encourage the people I want to encourage?  If I’m only taking the easy path is it truly a victory?

Most of us have someone (or someones!) that are more difficult for us to actively love and encourage.  For me it’s my Mother in Law.  I’m respectful, but perhaps coldly so.  When I am truthful with myself I know that I do not treat her with the same enthusiastic kindness that so many others receive from me.  Even total strangers get a warmer welcome.

There are many reasons for this, but none of them relevant to my point.  We have people in our lives that we just maybe don’t like all that much, or maybe we just don’t have an emotional connection to.  Maybe we have a difficult time finding common ground with them, maybe we just find them truly annoying.  It’s often easier to love an acquaintance—whose dirty laundry we haven’t seen—than to love the people right under our noses whose faults are glaringly obvious to us.

So what do we do about it?

Once upon a time I had a supervisor at work that none of us really liked.  She was such a stickler for the rules—to the point of it being obnoxious.  She was very quick to point out mistakes or faults and she was also very quick to talk about her dysfunctional personal problems.  I was not alone in my dislike of her.  However, I decided that since I had to work with her I needed to change my attitude toward her.  I asked God to show me ways that I could appreciate her, and I asked him to show her to me through His eyes.  Suddenly my perspective was altered.  I saw her as someone who very badly wanted to do a good job at work and have everything be accurate.  I saw her as someone desperate to earn the love of others and so her personal life was full of heartache and confusion.  But most of all I saw her as someone created by God and immensely loved by Him.

Literally overnight I no longer saw her as an annoyance.  She hadn’t changed at all—but my heart had.  I was able to have more patience with her and treat her with kindness instead of just respecting her as authority.

With my Mother in Law it hasn’t been an overnight change, but it’s also a much more personal relationship than just a supervisor.  It’s a work in progress to make an effort to reach out to her, but I’m trying.  Because I’ve acknowledged the situation I can work on it.  I’m trying to focus on the things I appreciate about her instead of anything else.  And especially, I try to imagine life from her point of view so that I have compassion for her shortcomings.

We don’t have to like or agree with people in order to love them.  I find that taking myself out of the equation and just looking at a person for who they are really helps.  Because ultimately loving them isn’t about me—it’s about following Jesus’ example.  Even the people who frustrate me most were created in God’s image and should be treated accordingly.

I’m going to keep trying to be more loving towards my Mother in Law.  Who do you need to be more hospitable to?  Perhaps it’s someone you live with but are frustrated with.  Perhaps it’s an extended family member or even an annoying neighbor.  Each one of these people were fearfully and wonderfully made—even if it’s difficult for us to acknowledge at times.  They each reflect a Heavenly Father, even if they do not acknowledge His existence.  Regardless of how they act towards us, we have a responsibility to show them love.

Dear Lord, thank you for this day.  Thank you for our families, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.  Thank you for loving all of them unconditionally even as we struggle to.  Thank you for setting a perfect example of this love. 

Lord please give us grace and patience to show hospitable love towards everyone we are around this week.  Let us view them through a lens of compassion and mercy—taking ourselves out of the picture.  Lord, let others know we are Christians because of our love.  Thank you for providing for our emotional needs so that we don’t require others to fill us up.  Lord, thank you for giving us strength to do what is right despite our humanly desires.  Lord, thank you for giving us self-control even when those around us do not have any.  We love you, Lord.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

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