“Where do you think I should put the drinks table?” I asked my husband, as he scrubbed the barbecue in preparation for our house-warming party.
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Because I was thinking it should go down there on the ground, so it’s not a big deal if people spill drinks. But then I was thinking that it might be too far away from the food table, so maybe we should put it up here on the deck. So… what do you think?” I asked again.
“I don’t know. You decide,” he said.
“Fine,” I huffed, “We won’t have a drinks table then.”
“You’re being ridiculous,” he said, as I stomped back inside.
Ugh. Is there anything worse than someone saying you’re being ridiculous when you are actually being ridiculous?
The truth is, hosting people at our house for a party or even a casual barbecue does make me go a little crazy.
I find myself playing out all the things that could go wrong…. Not enough food. Someone’s child goes missing. Someone’s child breaks something. My child won’t nap. Guests won’t feel welcome. It will be boring. I won’t know what to say to people. On and on, in my head, goes the list of potential problems.
So by the time we get to the day of the party, I tend to be in a bit of a state.
But personal weakness and discomfort are not reasons for ignoring (or wilfully disobeying) God’s instructions.
Hospitality is something Christians are commanded to do – it’s one of the tangible ways we are to show God’s love.
This is why I really appreciated Michelle Lesley’s article “The Christian Introvert: Putting off Social Anxiety, Putting on Serving Others“.
I love Michelle’s kind but direct approach to the issue.
When I entertain those anxious thoughts and feelings, I’m focusing on me. My fear of man. My worries about what others will think of me. My discomfort and desire to be somewhere else. Me. Me. Me.
Oooh, it stings so good!
The reason I get so worked up thinking about hosting others is because I’m fixated on myself: What will people think of my cleanliness? What will they think of my food? What will they think of my decorating?
Michelle has some great practical suggestions in her article for “putting on” a selfless attitude in various social situations.
Here are my tips specifically for hosting guests when you feel socially awkward or introverted:
- Simplify the food. I mean, you don’t have to be really cheap about it, but the key is to remember that you are making food to provide for people, not impress them. Don’t think about what food will make you look the best, but what food will contribute to everyone’s enjoyment of the party. For our house-warming party, if people asked “Can I bring anything?” we said we would love it if they brought a plate of finger food. Sharing the load of food prep took a lot of pressure off on the day, and I think people enjoyed contributing!
- Get your house clean enough. Again, take the focus of “what will people think of me?” and put the focus on, “what will best enable my guests to enjoy themselves and move freely about the house?” Aim for clean and hygienic bathrooms, and get the clutter off the floor, or at least moved to the edges of the floor. I actually think it’s good for people to see a little mess around the edges of your home. It makes them feel more at ease and less like they are walking through a museum. (Not that my home has ever got to museum standards…) Put anything you really don’t want broken away in a cupboard.
- Get the kids to help. It’s so good for kids to see and work together with their parents to serve others. Talk them through the practical steps, give them age-appropriate jobs to do and let them see how you love others through hospitality.
- Accept help when it is offered. If you have a great church family, like I do, it’s likely you’ll hear the phrase “What can I do?” quite a bit when hosting guests. Have your answer/s prepared! Don’t, I repeat, DON’T say, “Oh, I’ve got it under control.” Because even if you do right now, I can guarantee you won’t for the whole time! So, think of jobs other people can do to help ahead of time. Things like, asking who would like tea or coffee, walking around with a plate of food, clearing empty plates off the table, etc.
As the last smiling guest left our doorstep on the afternoon of the house-warming party, I crumpled into my husband’s arms and let out a sigh.
“That was great,” he said. “We should have people over more often!”
“Yeah, we should,” I agreed.
(And then I went and had a nap.)