What Happens When You Invite the Wrong People

We were 20 and 22, barely.

Excited about making a home, we unpacked our wedding presents and arranged them proudly on the 20-year-old counter top in our 30-year-old rented mobile home. We owned only three pieces of furniture. The first two comprised my grandmother’s bedroom set, minus the bed, which had collapsed years ago when my sisters and I jumped on it one too many times. The third piece was a couch we’d bought from the neighbors for $50 two months before we married.

The faux leather on the cushions had deep cracks, but my mom offered to reupholster them. We gave her one cushion at a time so we’d have something to sit on while she sewed. It was nine months before all the cushions came home and three people could sit side by side without a gaping, revolving cushion hole.

Our lack of plush accommodations didn’t prevent us from extending hospitality. We were eager to invite other young marrieds into our home for a meal or a game night. The first couple we invited was about our age and attended our church. They came for dinner but never returned the invitation. That friendship died in its embryonic stage.

The second couple accepted our invitation but never came. After waiting an hour hoping they were just running late, we ate a sad dinner of cold meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Two weeks later when our paths crossed again, we asked them what happened. “So sorry,” they said, “we forgot.”

We never made a second attempt.

After several more lukewarm or non-committal responses from other young couples, we decided we were extending hospitality to the wrong people. It was obvious these couples didn’t need friendship. Instead of pursuing the disinterested and socially satisfied, we decided to seek out the lonely.

The first person we invited home was a single guy who worked as a nurse in a local hospital. Eager to eat something other than his own cooking, Dan accepted our invitation promptly and arrived 10 minutes early. We played Trivial Pursuit, the only game we owned, and laughed until our faces hurt.

The second person was a soldier from a nearby army base. Otis had been driving our church bus for over a year and couldn’t go home for Thanksgiving. “Would you like to eat with us?” we asked, excited about cooking our first turkey and sharing it with someone. He said yes immediately. When I asked him what his favorite dish was, he replied with a deep sigh, “Sweeeeet potato pie.”

A transplanted Yankee, I hadn’t long crossed the Mason Dixon, and I’d never made a pie in my life. I’d also never seen a sweet potato, but I pulled out my Betty Crocker cookbook and gave it a try. It must have been OK, because Otis ate two pieces with dinner and took what remained back to the barracks.

“Did you eat the rest or share it?” I asked him on Sunday. “I ate the WHOLE thing,” he replied. I didn’t find out ‘til years later that sweet potatoes in large quantities have a powerful laxative effect. 

The third guy we invited home, Tom, was also single. When I mentioned I’d be making homemade pizza, he asked if he could bring his friend Tim. We decided to invite Dan and Otis, and ended up with more people than we had chairs. The pizza dough didn’t rise, and we ran out of cheese, but we shared stories of our childhoods and planted the seeds of friendship.

My husband and I never planned to have a ministry to single guys, but for several years that’s the way it turned out. Dan eventually found a new job and moved away. Tom and Tim accepted Christ and joined our church. Otis married a beautiful Christian woman from the Philippines named Evangeline.

 Hospitality came full circle the day they invited us over to their little rented mobile home. We ate around their kitchen table, told stories of how we first met, and laughed until our faces hurt. Twenty-five years later, they remain good friends.

“Do not forget to entertain strangers,” Hebrews 13:2 encourages us, “for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”

How about you? Are you so focused on inviting the “right” people into your home that you overlook those who truly need friendship? If yes, why not do something about this today?

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:13-14) 

And if you’ve extended hospitality to those whom the world might skip over, why not leave a comment below and tell us about it? I’d love to hear your story. 

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1 comment:

  1. I can relate so much to this because my husband and I have also found ourselves maintaining friendships probably the easiest with single guys in their 20s who are generally eager for a home-cooked meal that they might not get often! We've also had occasions when we have too many people for our chairs...and last night, there were too many people for our silverware! (We're moving, most of the silverware was already packed--we simply ate in shifts and washed the silverware after the first shift!)