The word “just,” as we know and use it, is killing our hospitality. When God uses the word "just," however, His power is limitless.
In 2015, 10-year-old Addison Goss, with nothing more to her name than an idea, started collecting clothing, snacks and toiletries to deliver to the homeless in her home state of Michigan. Now, 7 years later, Addison along with her non-profit organization, Snuggle Sacks, has helped hundreds of thousands of people find hope and sustenance.
In 2009, two brothers who were ages 8 and 10 at the time, started collecting backpacks and school supplies for underprivileged children in Boston, Massachusetts. Since then, over 10,000 backpacks, loaded with supplies, have been delivered in the Greater Boston area.
Children have been doing BIG things for centuries. Two-thousand plus years ago, a little boy brought two little pieces of fish and five barley loaves and placed them in the hands of Jesus, and with them, tens of thousands were fed...at once. When the multitude was fed, it was Phillip, an adult, who didn’t see the opportunity in front of him. He was the naysayer:
“It would take more than a half year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have just a bite.”
For many of us, at some point between our youth and adulthood, our child-like faith that said “I can do anything,” was replaced with, “but I only have a little to offer, and I can't do much with it."
And, it’s killing our hospitality.
When I first moved to Mississippi, I rented a 900-square-feet home with a tiny living room, an equally tiny kitchen and a dining space big enough to comfortably seat four people. It was the absolute BEST location to invite a whole slew of people over to watch our city's 4th of July parade because I lived on one of the main streets down which the parade would pass.
My couch was a 10-year-old hand-me-down I kept slipcovered to make slightly attractive. My recliner was also a hand-me-down that didn't match my couch. I didn't own a television at the time, and in the place where a television would naturally sit, I had a large dresser up against the wall because it wouldn't fit in the tiny bedrooms.
One year, I invited my parents and grandparents to watch the parade, and at some point during the day, a couple of my elderly lady-friend neighbors showed up to visit my family in my living room. Another year, I invited my now-husband's parents, his brothers and some neighbors over for brunch that I served from my stove, the drawer-sized kitchen counter space I had, and a makeshift bar-like top I came up with from repurposing an old set of cabinets that had been ripped off the wall of an old house. It wasn't fancy.
Take a peek at that photos again. That was the last 4th of July I had with both of my parents. Time is one of the most valuable reseources we are given, and we've got to use it wisely.
What are we missing by living in the world of "justs"?
Sure, you could start a non-profit that feeds hundreds of thousands of people in seven years. You could donate backpacks and school supplies to tens of thousands of children in thirteen years. Or, you could do something as simple as opening the doors of your 900-square-feet home to invite people into your tiny kitchen while making memories that will be with you for the rest of your life.
For many, however, it's not that simple. For myself, even, it hasn't always been that simple. When Drew and I first got married, my excuse was "I just haven't gotten the house in order yet." The ironic thing is it doesn't matter how long you live in a house, it's never going to be finished, and the moment you feel it is, something will break or the sink will stop up.
Speaking of broken sinks, this past spring, we invited twenty-plus over to celebrate Kendall's eleventh birthday. She had her heart set on a graze table, so there was a good bit of cooking and prep work I needed to do....with no properly working kitchen sink because it was badly clogged with smelly water standing inside.
Want to know how many people remember the sink being stopped up? Probably just one, and that would be myself. In fact, Kendall still had a graze table, and since I didn't call it off over something so trivial, my sweet, sweet dad was there to celebrate with us--just two months before he passed away. Time, friends.
Your family and friends don't care about what's broken or left unfinished. They just want to connect, and I promise there are many more people out there who are hungry for community in this weary world than there are those who will notice the imperfections.
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Have you ever been accidentally exposed by one of your children? You know those moments when your child, who has not yet developed the talent of filtering his or her speech, says something embarrassing that leaves you looking for the nearest exit?
In addition to their lack of filters, kids also have wild imaginations. Sometimes, our youngest, Bennett, will begin telling us something he's thought about, and his explanation might need to be translated because it's nothing that even closely resembles reality...but to him, it's possible.
Then, there's the list of careers our children want to pursue when they grow up: a pilot, an astronaut, a ballerina...maybe even the President of the United States.
But then, something happens. As we grow older and begin to face the world around us, we get knocked down several notches into the land of what we accept for ourselves as normal. We listen to the voices around us, and we believe them. We take on for ourselves an identity of being "a just," and then we begin to believe that whatever we have become is somehow less stellar than all of those things we thought we wanted to be as children or less stellar than those things we see others doing. We begin to feel we're no longer enough.
And when we look at ourselves as a "just," we completely ignore who God made us to be.
My mom was the epitome of the Proverbs 31 woman. She lived a very low profile life in the terms of the rest of the world, but the impact she had on it was massive. She and Dad made a three-bedroom farmhouse a home for our family of seven. When Mom wasn't working, she was home cooking meals for our family, meals to share with friends from church or meals for those in need. She didn't own a name brand of anything except for her Sketchers shoes, and that was for comfort. She just didn't care about all the other "stuff." I honestly don't know what kind of person I'd be had she been any different. I doubt I'd care so much about hospitality, and I likely wouldn't be able to recognize the needs of others if my mama hadn't taught me how. That's a big reason why I believe a mother's job is one of the most important.
But, how many of you see yourselves as "just" a mom, or "just" someone who stays home with the kids?
How many times before extending an invitation to someone have you looked at the house in which you live and thought "it's 'just' too basic,"
or "it's 'just' a mess"?
"I 'just' don't have enough to cook something nice."
"I 'only' have enough for sandwiches."
Do you know what God does with "justs"?
He feeds multitudes with just a couple of loaves and fish. (Matthew 14)
He parts seas with just an old man who uses a staff...a shepherd's hook, friends. (Exodus 14)
He defeats giants and entire armies with just a sling and stones. (1 Samuel 17)
God doesn't use the mighty or the extravagant. He uses the small, and then He does mighty things. It's time to rethink what it is we have to offer, and I am here to tell you, He has built some pretty strong friendships in my life with some hot ham & cheese sandwiches wrapped in a paper towel!
Everything we have is His
I truly believe the key to all things good in life and the key to the most genuine hospitality is remembering that very thing. It's not only my house I live in; it's God's and He intends for me to use it. It's not only my mess getting in the way of me opening my doors; it's God's, and He intends for me to give it to Him so He can handle it with me. And if your mama never told you this when you were little, I'll be the first to tell you, God did NOT make you inadequate. He made you with a purpose, and when we're listening to Him, the way He fulfills His purpose is always big. It may not be big in the eyes of those in the world around you, but that's because they don't know God yet, and it's up to us to introduce them to Him.
As I close, I want to leave you with these lyrics. If you don't know the hymn "Follow Me," the verses take you through a conversation between Jesus and an individual struggling to grasp serving from a place of humility. The last verse says:
Oh, Jesus if I die upon A foreign field some day,
'twould be no more than love demands...no less could I repay. No greater love hath mortal man than for a friend to die. These are the words He gently spoke to me: "If just a cup of water I place within your hand, then just a cup of water is all that I demand." But, if by death to living, they can thy glory see, I'll take my cross and follow close to thee.
We're not called to be earthly heroes. We're only called to bring Him glory by all of our actions, even if that action involves "just a cup of water."
Let's rethink our hospitality, friends. Low Profile. High impact.