There’s a tradition around our house. It’s been in place for a while now. We serve dinner on paper plates. Actually, we usually just do this when we don’t want to do the dishes. When we do, someone will get the “star plate.” That’s the plate that has a small star drawn on the bottom of it. We shuffle the plates like a deck of cards so no one knows who’s getting the star plate. Getting this plate is a big deal, because whoever ends up with it gets to pick what we have for dessert. It’s really nothing other than getting to choose between a scoop of ice cream or a handful of grapes. But for the one who gets to choose, they’re given the ultimate power and everyone knows it. It’s all done in fun, but you should hear the paper plate trash talk before we discover who got the plate. What we like the most is that in the end, everyone wins.
Practicing hospitality right where we are with the people we love is always a good place to start giving away our love. Especially when we use what we have and do with it what we can. Whether we use paper plates or fancy china, no one really cares what the place settings look like if a person is sitting where they’re loved. It’s a reminder to me that we buy the plates, but love sets the table.
I have a friend whose favorite word is with. I bet that’s one of God’s favorite words too. I can see why. God wanted to be with us, so He sent Jesus. He even named Him Immanuel, God with us, so that we would know He meant it. When Jesus left for heaven, He told His friends the Holy Spirit would be with them.
With. With. With.
The Bible is like a manual in that way, teaching us how to be with each other in the same way Jesus was with us: fully, completely, and sacrificially.
The concept of being with one another is both easy and difficult. At our core, I think we all want to be with the ones we love, in the same way Jesus was with His people. There are more than a few ways we do this, but hospitality is one that resonates best with me. The very nature of hospitality finds its footing in love.
Many of us put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be hospitable, but that pressure doesn’t really belong—it’s inconsistent with the goal. The world sets high standards, but in God’s economy perfect hospitality is synonymous with tremendous love.
I have the same insecurities we all have. Maybe even more. Inviting people in isn’t always easy for me. One time when my kids were young, we hosted the ambassador of a country in our home. When we heard he accepted our invitation, I was terrified. The ambassador and his family would be traveling to San Diego to see us, and they would be arriving in two weeks. I was honored they were coming, but our home was still a work in progress. My mind was spinning. I calculated whether there would be enough time to remodel the kitchen, lay down sod, grow a few new trees, paint the house, and repave the driveway. Perhaps. We didn’t have much time. I imagined them pulling up in a black limousine adorned with little flags above the headlights.