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(This is part of a series. To read the previous posts, go to the ‘Parenthood and…’ menu along the top header.)
When I contemplate how my discipleship looks different now compared with how it looked before I had children, it’s easy to feel a little frustrated that some things are not as easy, or as rewarding, or as substantial. But on the other hand, I’m starting to see that in some areas God is teaching me more about His way of doing things now that I have kids. Hospitality is one of those areas.
We have always loved opening our home to others. It comes easily to us – we love people and we love food, so (most of the time) hospitality is not a trial. I know that for many Christians it takes a lot of effort to respond to what the Bible says about hospitality, so I don’t write this post lightly. But whether we’re coming from a position of love or detest when it comes to opening our homes, I think having kids gives us an amazing opportunity to get back to Biblical hospitality. So this is a kind of disclaimer: I’m not going to be addressing the issue of whether or not we should be sharing our homes with others, assuming that you probably know that already, regardless of how easy or difficult you find it. This post is more about how we do that as parents, when our homes already seem quite full enough.
There is so much to say on this issue that I’m ashamed to say I’ve already drafted a second and third part to this topic! I’ll aim to post them later this week for those who are interested (if you’re not, you may just like to ignore me this week). But for this post, I want to focus on the main difference between our own hospitality pre-kids and post-kids – which is that before we had kids, our hospitality revolved around us.
Now I’m not saying it was bad hospitality – I think people enjoyed coming round for meals, or coming to stay for a weekend – but it was about me and my cooking and trying new recipes and making sure the house was in a fit state to show off. I’d never dream of having anyone over for dinner without preparing a three-course meal – and usually there were nibbles beforehand and chocolates afterwards. When friends came to stay, the guest room was always hoovered, dusted and properly tidied. I’d make sure every meal was planned, down to remembering to get croissants or bacon for breakfast. We had the time to properly wait on our guests. We didn’t expect them to chip in with meal preparation or clearing up.
I’m sure you realise that things are a little different now. No one gets a starter (count yourself lucky if you’ve had one in the Rycroft household since 2009). Puddings may be shop-bought. You get chocolates after a meal if you bring them yourself. Before friends stay, I usually pick the fluff off the carpet by hand (hoovering approximately twice a year), and run my forearm along surfaces to get rid of the worst of the dust. There are always Cheerios for breakfast. And if you don’t help clear up after one meal, you may just find you don’t have a plate for the next. It’s not that we’re not bothered about our guests – we simply don’t have the time or the energy to wait on them hand-and-foot. We have two new tiny, wonderful people in our family who kind of take most of our time and energy, leaving little for others.
Nowadays, our hospitality is rather dishevelled – but I think it revolves more around others than us. It’s about opening up our untidy home and offering what we have. It’s about offering the leftovers from our midweek, thrown-together supper – not because I’m proud of serving up soggy pasta, but because someone shows up who needs a meal. It’s about offering our spare room – not because I’m proud of the mess I just shoved under the bed, but because someone needs somewhere to stay. In other words, it’s hospitality which provides for others’ needs, rather than that which fuels our own pride. It’s about our ‘guests’ mucking in, enjoying a piece of our family life, with all its noise and mess. It’s about building relationships, blessing others, and all of us Rycrofts – kids included – growing in understanding of true Biblical hospitality.