This is another installment of the Theology of Fun series.
We opened the door and walked right over the welcome mat just as we had done hundreds of times before, but on this particular day Ryan noticed it. Our pathetic shredded excuse for a welcome mat had faded. We had worn out our welcome. The word “Welcome” on the welcome mat had been worn down by the copious foot traffic it had endured over the past several years.
When Ryan and I bought our first home, we really wanted to make it an open door environment. A place where small groups could congregate, where the church and community could cross paths on our front porch, where 20-somethings could find a home away from home.
In that spirit, we desired to choose a welcome mat carefully and discerningly. We selected one that boasted the word “Welcome” in large, bold font emblazoned in the middle surrounded by smaller translations of the word “welcome” in various languages.
On this particular day, we realized the big word “welcome” had faded, and most of the welcomes in other languages had disappeared as well. We had officially worn out our welcome.
As usual, our perspectives on this mundane domestic development were almost as far apart as the loyalties of Red Sox fans and Yankees fans or the political views of Mary Matalin and James Carville.
My immediate reaction: that’s terrible, we need a new one! Our house is a mess!
Ryan’s immediate reaction: that’s awesome, we are so hospitable! Our house is full of people!
It’s not often that I like Ryan’s perspective better, but in this instance, I’m willing to part with my opinion. It’s true, we had worn out our welcome. And I think that’s awesome. Here’s what I’m learning: Discipleship and hospitality are closely connected. I used to think that hospitality was about teacups, doilies, and properly set tables. While those social niceties may represent a dimension of hospitality, at its Biblical core, it is primarily about inviting people into safe places to encounter the dangerous message of the Gospel. It’s about creating environments where people can experience the presence of God. Isn’t that the most important thing we can do as disciple-makers? And shouldn’t hospitality be fun? I think Christians need to learn how to throw better parties.
It doesn’t sound sacred, but good stewardship led us to purchase a karaoke machine, a large screen television, and Settlers of Catan, and those have proven to be some of the best investments we could make. Our next big decision is whether or not to invest in a soda fountain. When people come to our house, they know we are not going to set a table for them, prepare something special for them, or cater to their wishes. If they are lucky, we will ask them what they want to drink. The rules are simple—here is the fridge, here is the pantry. If it’s in a Tupperware container without a clear date inscribed, beware. Otherwise, help yourself. You know where the movies, the games, and the karaoke CDs are…go for it. We want to create a place where people want to be, and that means making a place that is fun.
It’s going to look different for you than it does for us, but the principle is the same. What part of your life can you open up to include someone else? Hospitality is more than teacups, doilies, well set tables, and good manners. It’s a lot more dangerous than that. And a lot more fun. It’s inviting people into your life as you live it and where you live it. Wear out your welcome. Throw better parties.