Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThis weekend, I got to attend an amazing conference in South Carolina. The theme of the conference was hospitality, and let me just say, the whole idea has really got me thinking.

I got to hear so many voices and stories, all with different takes on and different experiences with hospitality. I got to thinking about how hospitality is like grace in so many ways—it’s an open door into an open space, filled with compassion and care. It’s saying “come on in” and “here’s a soft place to land” and “I see you.”

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Shauna Niequist shared a particularly stunning line when she said, “Hospitality means when people leave your presence they feel better about themselves not better about you.”

Let that one sink in for a minute. Zinger.

I got to share a bit on Saturday, and I talked about how I’m learning—over and over again—the lesson that we must offer ourselves hospitality if we are ever going to authentically and vulnerably offer it to others.

And, if we are locked in an adversarial relationship with ourselves, well then, that’s the opposite of hospitality, isn’t it. Bullies aren’t hospitable. When we bully ourselves, we are saying: “Nope, there’s no grace here. This is a do-it-perfect-or-else kind of establishment, thank you very much.” See how that’s the opposite of hospitality?

For so many of us, our F.E.A.R. (Frantic Efforts to Appear Recovered) keeps us from being able to open the doors to our hearts and our homes fully. We are so locked in our need to feel OK and safe in the world, that we don’t yet have the capacity to offer that to others.

So our first step is to begin turning toward ourselves with compassion instead of turning on ourselves with contempt, and I really believe that as we offer ourselves hospitality, we will—without even trying—be able to offer hospitality to others much more genuinely. It will become WHO WE ARE instead of something we try to create on a table, in an oven, or with the help of a Pinterest board.

Does that make sense?

My invitation is to continue to nurture that very fleshy, human soul inside yourself. The one that runs on grace and not the Frantic Efforts to Appear Recovered. This is how we learn to become much more comfortable in our own skin . . . how we learn to receive God’s love more deeply and fully . . . and then, how we are able to join God in his work to make homes for the homeless (Psalm 68:6 MSG).

This might mean we need to write that letter of amends . . . to ourselves, forgiving ourselves for being human. Beginning again.

This might mean we need to pierce the membrane that’s formed around us and reach out toward some help and support . . . so that someone else can reach in and we can learn to live connected instead of isolated in our F.E.A.R.

This might mean we need to start caring so much more how it’s all feeling on the inside instead of how it’s all looking on the outside.

This might mean we need to slooooooow waaaaaaay dooooooown and breathe. Breathe. Breathe. (Like my dear friend Erica taught me: 4-7-8. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 7 counts, exhale for 8 counts. Get full, deep, real breaths. All the way down into your stomach. Not the frantic panting we’re used to living on.)

This might mean we need to consult a guide: pastor, therapist, trained professional. You get my drift.

All of these thoughts were still very much with me this morning as I’m reflecting back on the conference and so many important and challenging ideas around hospitality. But this post is my take. We offer hospitality to a weary world because we have first offered it to ourselves, because we have first received it from Christ himself.

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What does hospitality mean to you?

When have you experienced true hospitality?

How does someone make you feel welcome in their presence?

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