Two little girls stood staring across the screen door. Curious. Hesitant. Surveying each-other.
Both wore ridiculous dresses adorned with miles of ruffles. Both had disheveled blonde hair and cheeks flushed red from exertion. They could have been looking in the mirror.
The moms stood back, allowing this introduction to play out. One girl absentmindedly swirled, enjoying her skirt’s impressive radius. The other smiled in admiration. She knew a good twirly skirt when she saw one.
In a flash, the girls linked arms and dashed down the hall, disappearing into the playroom in a sea of giggles and shrieks.
A friendship was born.
Those two girls were inseparable for the next six years. They moved seamlessly between each-other’s homes as if neither property possessed door or boundary. No part of the home or yard was off limits. And rarely were they denied when they asked to play, eat, sleep or make colossal messes at each-other’s houses.
My oldest daughter and her friend slowly grew apart over the years after we moved away. And without realizing it, I grew away from my open-door policy regarding friends and playtime.
My younger daughter now has close friends on our new street. But her experience has been the opposite of her older sister’s. In my weariness and reluctance to have a house full of extra kids, she and her friends are often relegated to the yard when spending time together. They are told no more far often than yes when they ask to play inside. Crazy messes are out of the question. And while I certainly have fed my share of extra kids, I am more impatient with snack requests than I ever was with my firstborn.
A few weeks ago, I noticed my daughter’s sweet friend standing outside behind the door, waiting for my daughter to rummage through the kitchen for a glass of water and a snack. Every so often, she’d tentatively peek inside but never once did she make a move to enter.
Clearly she didn’t think she was allowed inside.
Conviction crashed over my spirit. Having a child think she can’t come inside my home goes against everything I believe about hospitality. I realized in that moment that had let my boundaries and weariness trump my belief that our home is meant to be shared. And this means shared with my kids’ friends, too.
My heart sank as I reflected on how my younger daughter has grown up with so many stringent rules around inside playtime. And I knew I had to make some changes to my attitude. Because I want my kids’ friends to feel just as welcome and wanted here as anyone else.
I held open the door and smiled, inviting her friend inside. Her eyes widened with joy and she rushed to my daughter’s side.
Since that day, I have intentionally answered yes to inside playtime requests. I make sure to have easy snacks on hand like popcorn and pretzels so I don’t get exasperated with the inevitable snack requests. I remind the kids to clean up their messes along the way and remind them that my closet is off limits for a club house. (Because I doubt Jesus, himself, would want kids pulling clothes off hangars and leaving open bags of chips on his closet floor. Just sayin’) Then I turn them loose.
I am committed to teaching my children a Biblical view of hospitality. I want them to understand that homes are not fortresses meant to keep the world out. They aren’t spas where we relax. They aren’t showcases meant to impress invited and scheduled guests. Homes are simply spaces lent to us by God that are meant to be generously used to share His love.
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9
If I know anything about hospitality, I know this: it isn’t convenient. But that’s ok. Because hospitality isn’t about convenience. It is about a belief that your home is meant to be used to bless others. This applies formally and casually. Planned and unplanned. When you feel like it and when you don’t. And the ones God asks you to bless might come in all ages and sizes.
So I plan to invite the kids inside. Even if I am tired. Even if I don’t feel like dealing with extra bodies. And even if they try to eat me out of house and home.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Hebrews 13:16