Several years ago, I read a book called “Open Heart, Open Home” that discussed the importance of Christians welcoming people into our homes.  It posed challenges to help me see that having a spotless house before welcoming someone in is not the most important thing.  I took these challenges to heart, and began striving to have a home where people are welcome to come anytime.  I have (only half-jokingly) told people “If you want to see me, come anytime; if you want to see my home, you might want to call first!” 

Shortly thereafter, I witnessed the opposite of this welcome when we moved to a new base.  It turned out that the family living directly across the street were old friends of S, and the guys had worked together for several years.  S eagerly took me over to introduce me to them.  It was rather hot and muggy out, the mosquitoes were biting, and it was getting to the point of being somewhat uncomfortable.  The wife apologized and explained that her house was messy and she would be too embarrassed to have us inside, so we spent over an hour standing on the front porch chatting.  Over a year and many front-porch conversations later, we moved, still never having been invited into their home. 

On the other hand, I have been in homes that were almost in pristine condition (even with kids! I’ll never know how they did that!), such that I was afraid to touch anything.  I even visited one home that went so far as to post a sign in the bathroom posted above an old, well-used hand-towel, that said something to the effect of  “Guests, please use this towel rather than the guest towels.”

Although I am pretty adaptable and can understand how these women feel, such situations made me strongly resolve to ALWAYS have a welcoming home.  Over time, I realized how difficult it would be to have any kind of effective ministry outreach from our home if people did not first feel welcome and loved here.  I desired clean, but never wanted guests to fear touching or even breaking something.  Things can be repaired or replaced, people cannot.  As the years went by, we really worked to create a home that was inviting.  I tried to decorate in such a way that induced comfort and invitation to sit and visit for a while.  S really helped me learn to keep the place relatively tidy, though I certainly still have days where it looks like a tornado just went through the living room.

Since moving here, in just one week, we have become friends with our back-yard neighbor.  It was strange at first, as I daily had other young children playing on my porch as I tried to unpack, but my kids loved having the playmates.  Then, my children began asking permission to go play on the neighbor’s porch.  My children have never been old enough, so this was new to me.  Nonetheless, I felt more and more comfortable, as I could still see and even hear all that was going on, and it freed me to unpack.  We eventually extended an open invitation to join us for worship, and now, they randomly show up. 

Frankly, it has been wonderful!  Our worship time is immediately after dinner, so they often show up while the dining room table is only half-cleaned off, the dirty dishes are still in the sink (or actively being washed), and the counters have not been wiped down.  We never really know when they are coming, so we don’t really plan for it.  We just stick with our routine of starting worship at the same time each evening.  I realized they are not coming to see a spotless house, but to join us in Christian fellowship and worship of our Lord.  It is truly amazing to me that this relationship has developed so quickly, but at the same time, it is so rewarding to think that, perhaps, we have finally reached a place in our journey where people actually feel comfortable dropping by, completely unannounced, and feel welcome to do so. 

I challenge any Christian out there to evaluate how you treat your guests.  Are you a front-porch talker who is more concerned with the cleanliness of your house than in building relationships?  Or are you the friend that people know they can turn to any time they need to?  As our former pastor used to say, Christianity is all about relationships…with Christ, with family, and with others.  Nothing is more important!