I looked around my kitchen yesterday at lunchtime. The floor was clean. The counter was not. There were some dishes in the sink. The weekly clutter had accumulated on my counter. We had friends coming over in five minutes.
I knew I didn't have time to clean the counter. I had spent the morning working and getting ready for the kids who were coming in the afternoon. I didn't even think about the kitchen counter until it was too late.
So, my girls' friends and their moms came over and saw my kitchen counter in all its everyday glory. If they had ventured downstairs, they would have found all the Matchbox cars strewn around the floor. If they had ventured into my younger daughter's room, they might have found some dirty clothes and a book or two on the floor.
Too often, I get caught up in having a perfect house before I invite people over. I work myself to the bone trying to get the place cleaned up for friends to come over. I like having a clean house when people come over, but if I waited until my house was perfect, we would never have people over. The truth is that we live here, and sometimes life is messy.
When we choose not to invite people into our homes because they aren't perfect, we lose the opportunity to minister to others. We lose the opportunity to create deeper friendships. We lose the opportunity to teach our kids that people are more important than things.
Our kids learn about hospitality from us. If we refuse to allow people into our homes unless they are spotless, we teach our kids that our live have to be perfect before we can let others in. We show them that appearances are everything.
There's nothing wrong with cleaning up your house before company comes, but if a little clutter on the counter or some Matchboxes on the floor are keeping us from inviting the neighbor in for a spontaneous visit or from issuing an invitation for a playdate, then we're sending the wrong message to our kids.
Our homes are gifts from God, and we are to use them to offer hospitality to others -- whether the kitchen floor has been mopped or not. 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." While I don't recommend inviting perfect strangers into your home (although there are appropriate times to do that), this verse reminds us that showing hospitality to others provides us with an opportunity to be a picture of God's love.
We want our kids to learn that hospitality isn't dependent on the state of our homes but on the state of our hearts. When we invite others into our less-than-perfect homes, we let them know that they are more important than a spotless house. We put relationships before possessions, and we teach our kids to do the same.
Look around your house this morning and think about the last time you invited someone into your home. Is the state of your house keeping you from having an open door and an open heart? Will you close the door of your home and miss the opportunity to "show hospitality to angels"? Will you let the clutter on the kitchen counter keep you from teaching your kids to offer hospitality to others?
Don't let a less-than-perfect house get in the way of creating deeper relationships with others. God didn't let our less-than-perfect selves stop Him from creating a deeper relationship with us.