From time to time older women will tell me that they are seldom invited out, but that they, meanwhile, are having people over all the time. They wonder what gives. Now this doesn’t mean that they are looking for a payback. They simply wonder if they are doing something wrong. I tell them that this comes with the territory. To whom much is given much is required. They may have bigger homes and resources than many of the young families they are having over. Some are called to extend hospitality more than others. So I remind them to be faithful and not worry about it. In fact, if everyone was inviting them over, they might feel swamped!
My opinion on this is that older women can be very intimidating to younger women. This came as a shock to me when I first realized it. Me? Intimidating? How could that be? It’s just me, after all!
When Doug and I were first married, he was in college and then in grad school. He was fond of inviting his professors to dinner, and I tell you, I was very intimidated. I was not a great cook. In fact, I think when we got married, I knew how to make soup (just put a bunch of vegetables in a pot and see what happens), and of course I could make a grilled cheese sandwich or fry a hamburger patty. I learned to make macaroni and cheese from my mother-in-law, and I gradually picked up the knack of the crock pot. I honestly don’t remember what I cooked. Maybe meatloaf. I know it was some time before I knew the difference between round steak and chuck or how to cook either one.
Some of my intimidating guests included Doug’s Latin instructor (who turned out to be a jolly character), his philosophy instructors, his major professor and his wife (who were a real pleasure). Then there were the Mormon boys he invited (who were trying to convert us), and an outspoken feminist from one of his philosophy classes. Some of these were more intimidating than others, but I generally always felt way out of my depth.
So back to the intimidation factor. I assumed that since his professors were far more established with nicer homes and bigger budgets, they would not want to stoop to come to our home. We had a funky little apartment with gold shag carpet. (I think this was during the phase when I needed a side table for a lamp, so I covered a big cardboard box with corduroy!)
I think young wives (like I was back then) feel that they can have peers over, but older people might be too critical of their meager attempts at hospitality. Why would they want to come to our house to have sloppy joes anyway? The kids will act like kids, which won’t be dignified enough for such lofty guests. My bathroom is too shabby. My dishes are chipped.
Hospitality is much bigger than the menu or the furnishings. When Bekah was an adult, she met Doug’s old Latin teacher, who by that time was near retirement but was still teaching at the same university. He reminded her of being at our home for dinner back when she was just a baby. I was amazed that he still remembered (and I had completely forgotten)! This made me realize that God was doing more in our hospitality than we knew, whether I was intimidated or not.
We want hospitality to make us feel like awesome hostesses and cooks. But the truth is, it’s not about us in that way at all. It’s about connecting with people around a table and making them feel welcome and fed. So if you have people in your life that you’ve thought of having over, but you feel too intimidated to try, do a little experiment and have just one. Make a meal that you’ve made a million times before. See how it goes. It may be that nothing magical happens that you can see, but trust God to use it to shape you and shape your guests.
Especially be willing to have those people from your husband’s workplace or school. Even his boss! These may be the very people who are seldom invited into anyone’s home. Then ask God to give you a spirit of peace as you set the table and offer it all to Him. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect. Perfection has never been the standard, and it would be dreadful if it was.