by Lauren Douglas
It’s not always natural to invite others into our homes. For many of us, our homes serve as retreats from the world, our safe places in which we can relax. But while we can use our homes to rest and be rejuvenated, sometimes our homes can end up isolating us from community if we don’t open them to others.
It’s always meant a lot to me to get invited into someone’s home. There is something about being in someone’s home that not only helps me relate to them, but allows me to see how their family works and feel more connected to them.
I think we desire this type of community even if it doesn’t come easily to us. We want the refrigerator friends who come over and make themselves at home. The friends who know where our cups and silverware are and don’t have to ask where the trash is. Friends who can tackle the dishes in the sink without embarrassment.
I think we desire these friendships and community because such friends must not only know our houses intimately but know us, too. And we desire to be known and accepted. These friendships don’t just happen over time. It takes a certain amount of vulnerability to actually open the door and let others in. But it isn’t hard to begin; it takes just one invitation at a time.
Small groups at my local church actually meet in homes. This practice began for practical reasons—there wasn’t classroom space at the church—but it created something intimate. Most weeks my group meets at my house. We mainly host the adults, but occasionally the children show up too. It’s funny how my approach to hosting has progressed over the past one and a half years of small group Sunday nights! The first time I was stressed. I thought things had to be perfect. My husband and I spent the afternoon cleaning and sweeping. We wanted to present a flawless view of our home and of our family to go with it.
As time has gone on, I have relaxed. I no longer feel like I have to impress these friends. Thankfully, they are in my life deep enough to know the real me. I might still spend time prepping for their arrival, but I’ve seen a change in my heart in regard to it. Yes, I want my house picked up so there are actually places to sit, and I want to have snacks ready so our group feels welcomed, but if the kids’ coloring books are still out on the kitchen table, so be it! If my dining room table is covered with laundry, let it stay (as long as there’s not underwear that’s a little too intimate for me). And if I don’t have time to make a snack and need another group member to bring something, I know all I have to do is ask.
One week, a friend excused herself to go to the restroom during our Bible study and I remember thinking, “Oops! I didn’t even check if the kids’ bathroom was clean.” When my friend came out, I apologized and she said, “There were underwear on the floor, and your daughter didn’t flush, but at least she went potty.”
And you know what? The underwear on the floor and the unflushed toilet were good. Good because my group is filled with parents of little ones. Parents also in the midst of potty training struggles and the rest of the chaos present during the little years. If I pretend like I have it all together, then I am doing not only myself but all of us an injustice.
Let’s embrace what Paul says and not only share Christ with others, but share ourselves by opening up our hearts and our homes:
“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 NLT).
Who can you invite in? Who needs to feel loved and accepted not only into your home but into your life?
Lauren Douglas is a wife and mommy to two little ones. She enjoys reading, crafting, and exercise. Most of her days start and end with coffee. She prays that her home and life are led by her faith in Christ. Lauren blogs at faithledhome.com.
Photograph used with permission from, and copyright of, Michelle Lenger.