Half-Baked Hospitality: Lessons in Humility

What happened to my beautiful peach cobbler?!

My family and I were enjoying a lovely summer evening with dinner guests. The air was cool and all was well—until I discovered that dessert had been sitting in a turned-off oven for an hour! Sigh.

Thankfully, our guests were quite understanding, and even though the cobbler wasn't served until past 8:30, it turned out good enough (with the help of some vanilla ice cream), and more importantly, the evening of fellowship was a great blessing to all of us.

What ought to be an occasion to focus on and serve others becomes a selfish focus on me—my cooking, my clean home, my decorating.

Though I certainly would prefer to not make such silly kitchen mistakes on a regular basis, the hapless error was actually a fitting event in light of what the Lord has recently been teaching me about hospitality—humility.

It has always been my husband's and my desire to be intentional about inviting people into our home. I have greatly enjoyed learning and experimenting for the three years we have been married, and one of the results has been an increased enthusiasm for Christ-honoring hospitality— a desire to practically bless others by welcoming them into a home in which the presence of Christ is both treasured and felt.

However, along with the joy of this growing appreciation for hostessing, the Lord has shown me the danger of stumbling into what I like to call homemaker's pride. The God-given desire to bless becomes a sinful ambition to impress. It is a pride that goes beyond finding fulfillment in the God-given responsibility to keep the home with excellence, and rather allows homemaking to become a source of security and an opportunity to receive some ego-boosting applause. What ought to be an occasion to focus on and serve others becomes a selfish focus on me—my cooking, my clean home, my decorating.

In reality, homemaker's pride is simply a pursuit to serve self rather than others. But this is not the pattern Jesus lived while on earth: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve" (Mark 10:45). And that is the pattern we are to imitate.

The deepest, most life-giving, joy-filled satisfaction is to be had not when we are serving self, but when we are serving others.

Truly there is much satisfaction to be had as a result of the energy and effort put forth in keeping a home and opening its doors to others. And I believe it brings delight to God's heart when women enthusiastically embrace this calling in a biblical way. But the timeless truth still stands, even in this most practical area of life: The deepest, most life-giving, joy-filled satisfaction is to be had not when we are serving self, but when we are serving others; not when we are receiving, but when we are giving.

Philippians 2:3-4 puts it rather plainly:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The following are just a few principles I have found to be helpful in keeping homemaker's pride in check.

Be Generous, Yet Simple and Modest

If we swing too far to the other side of the pendulum, we might be tempted toward stinginess. The sacrificial and extravagant love of Christ compels us to give our best to others and practice hospitality with joyful generosity, rather than having a mind-set of "How can I do this in a way that doesn't cost me anything?" But at the same time, keeping things simple and modest prevents our liberality from turning into pride. We can be generous without being lavish.

When the food is overly complicated or fancy, more attention is on just that—the food—rather than the fellowship. I want to bless my guests with a delicious and nourishing meal, yes, but my desire ought to be that they would leave my home thinking, That was such encouraging fellowship! rather than, That was such amazing food! This could look different for everyone, depending on the occasion and one's personal food budget. Only we know whether we are being stingy or generous or if we are going overboard with a selfish desire to impress.

Don't Despise the Mishaps

Obviously, we don't need to make mistakes on purpose simply for the purpose of trying to stay humble—that would be silly! Like I said, I'd certainly prefer my desserts to turn out the way they're supposed to, especially when we have guests. But on the other hand, when such mishaps do happen to occur, we can keep our humility in check by allowing ourselves to laugh and let it go (and perhaps offering an apology to the guests).

I remember a time several months ago when I had to do this. At the last minute, I found out that one of my dinner guests that evening was gluten-free. I changed my menu and quickly found a recipe for gluten-free biscuits. Well, they ended up turning out to be flat, hard discs with barely any flavor! We all laughed about it, and I didn't let it ruin what ended up being a great evening of fellowship.

Accept the Salad

Oftentimes invited guests will ask if they can bring something to contribute to the meal—a salad, dessert, etc. I have found that joyfully accepting the offer is a good opportunity to keep my pride in check. Of course there may be times when we really want to just bless our guests by their not having to worry about anything.

I recently had my mom and sisters over for a Saturday morning brunch, and my oldest sister asked what she could bring. As she was eight months pregnant at the time with four little ones in tow, I really wanted her to just come and enjoy herself without having to think about preparing something, so I turned down her offer. In most cases, however, I am learning that "accepting the salad" is not only a great blessing on an extra busy day of food prep and cleaning, but just another way to make the evening less about me and my cooking.

Limit Your Idea-Gathering

This is a hard one for me. The explosion of Pinterest and blogs of all kinds—home, food, DIY—has, I believe, made it easier to fall into homemaker's pride. We are constantly on the lookout for the most delicious, most creative, and most memorable, and this creates a temptation to begin comparing ourselves to the efforts of other women, not to mention spending hours rummaging through all the zillions of possibilities, which can end up being a huge waste of time.

But this can be prevented if we mostly stick to a list of three or four "go-to hospitality meals." And from what I can tell thus far, this is something that will get easier to do as time goes by and we learn what meals work best for our routine, budget, etc.

Remembering the Reason

I love keeping my home, and I love hospitality! I look forward to years of growing in these areas, discovering more of how to create an environment of beauty, nourishment, and warmth for my family and guests. And to do so, I will be giving time, energy, and thought to the meals I make and the way I decorate my home.

But these outward, external efforts will be in vain if I forget the reason why I am doing any of it in the first place—to turn eyes toward the beauty of Christ, perhaps even to encourage and inspire other women toward excellence and joy (not ambition, worldliness, or perfection) in homemaking, and ultimately, to bring God glory by delighting in His design for womanhood and being conformed to His likeness as I walk out every good and perfect work He has ordained for me, whether that be making lunch for a toddler or hosting a dinner party. And as I walk, I know He will be ever faithful and gracious to refine and preserve me along the way. For that grace, may I be ever grateful—even when that means serving a half-baked cobbler every now and then!

About the Author

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson is the author of Laughing at the Days to Come: Facing Present Trials and Future Uncertainties with Gospel Hope. She enjoys being a stay-at-home mom to three boys in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, Nick.

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