An Uninvited Guest
She sat across her meager, well-loved table from me with the warmest grin on her face. Her hair was covered and held back by a blue flower-print bandana with just a little bit of white peeking out from underneath. I remember her cheeks looking so soft and rosy, full of life, and her eyes twinkling with pure joy to have me in her home.
I was an unexpected and uninvited guest on that particularly warm July day in Dobra, Romania. As my translator and I walked down the dusty roads, many people who stood visiting outside quickly retreated into their homes.
Word had spread about the free medical clinics set up by our American mission team, but I was not part of that in-demand outreach. I was on the evangelism team, traveling by foot through this rustic Romanian village praying for willing hearts to invite us in and hear the life-giving message of Jesus Christ.
Rather than become discouraged by our unwelcome presence, I began to take in the sights. The houses were set close together, each of them modest and humble. Some had indoor plumbing, while most still employed an outhouse. Apart from the dirt roads, the landscape was lush, green, and covered in blooming flowers. Despite some deteriorating structures, some tumble-down fences, and some malnourished dogs roaming the streets, the view was breathtaking.
And then my eyes caught hers; a plump little lady standing at her gate. She wasn’t rushing away. She stood waiting for us to approach and after a quick introduction by my translator, she took my hand in hers and ushered us into her home.
She didn’t rush around straightening things up or apologize for the dust on the table or lack of refreshments. She merely offered us each a seat at her table, a glass of water, and some of the bread that remained from her breakfast that morning.
As we sat and talked, my focus was not on her decor or the tidiness of her quaint space. My most vivid memory these ten years later is how touched I was by her generous hospitality when she possessed so little, how special she made me feel just by her welcoming presence and willingness to listen to me, and how difficult it was for me to say goodbye and walk out her front door.
Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (NIV)
In my case, I was the stranger, and I felt like an angel had shown me the true meaning of hospitality. This caused me to ponder whether I extend this same blessing to uninvited guests.
The answer was “no.”
Preparing for planned visits from family and friends has always been fun for me. I enjoy going the extra mile to ensure clean linens are on the bed and hanging in the bathroom, each room is free of dust and clutter, fresh scents fill each space, and special meals and treats are in the making. However, I realized this was often the only way I was “comfortable” receiving visitors.
I made a decision I no longer wanted convenience to take precedence over benevolence.
Through my beautiful Romanian hostess, God gave me an example of hospitality to emulate. As I prayed for God’s guidance, He revealed to me three practices to hold on to:
Hold my tongue - My guests don't need to hear me pointing out and apologizing for all the "imperfections" in our home - the clutter, the dust, the dishes in the sink, or the dog hair on the couch. With the Lord's help I want to fight this urge and simply welcome our guests with open arms.
Hold my guest’s heart - I want to live out the phrase on our front door mat - Come As You Are. Our guests should feel safe to share their heart, being honest and authentic without fearing judgement. I want to offer my own heart through a listening ear, a box of Kleenex, or encouragement and prayer.
Hold my door open - I've often heard the phrase, "open door policy" in the workplace, but also want to have it at home. May I always be willing to answer Jesus' call to offer hospitality - whether to a stranger, an uninvited guest or during a planned visit.
As flawed as my thinking has been about hospitality, I now pray the Lord will provide me unlimited opportunities to prove faithful in offering His perfect love in my imperfect space.
Here is the beautiful woman I met in Romania. I'm sorry the picture is sideways. I tried...