“Okay ladies,” the guest speaker urged as she wrapped up her talk to my moms group that night, “Now go home and be friendly in your homes.”
Ouch! Had she been in my home just a few hours earlier? “Friendly” was far from the way I had acted toward my brood. Unkind? Yes. Snippy? Certainly. Even caustic and cutting? Well, if I were honest, I’d have to declare a resounding yes.
Just what made this Jesus-professing mama behave in such an un-Christ-like manner earlier that evening? Had someone acted rudely toward me? Did my kids disrespect me or my husband utter something hurtful? Just what pushed my interior emotional buttons and sent me verbally over the edge?
Soiled socks. Smeared strawberry jam. Trailing bread crumbs. Dirty silverware and plates. And notebooks.
Oh, it wasn’t just the presence of these items that sent ugly words soaring out of my mouth. It was the fact that, just moments earlier, I had spent vast time and great effort getting our great room spic-and-span clean. That meant a living area devoid of clutter, kitchen counters and tables wiped, all floors vacuumed and surfaces dusted. I wanted the house tidied up so my husband and kids could just relax while I was gone.
Then, in the short time it took to change from my daytime outfit of jeans and a t-shirt into something more suited for a night with the girls, spruce up my hair, add a dab of make-up and grab my purse, my kiddos had, in my eyes, completely undone all my hard work! They’d whipped off their socks, made a snack of toasted homemade bread slathered with strawberry jam and strewn their weekly scripture memory books from a program at church all over the place. It made my mama blood boil and resulted in feisty, not friendly words.
I was working on a book on hospitality at the time and had been unpacking the above verse for my readers. I wanted to drive home the fact that hospitality—using our homes and lives as avenues of God’s care for others—and love—the sacrificial placing of another human being above yourself—are closely connected. And, the most important element, we must both love and offer hospitality to others without grumbling. You know, be friendly!
Now, for the most part, aren’t we able to do that when we have guests in our home? We smile and serve and really don’t get upset at crumbs and such. We happily wipe them up. Why is this so? And on a grander scale, why do we find it much easier to be friendly to complete strangers than to our own flesh and blood? Do our tempers stay in check with the grocery store cashier or even the dentist (whom I hate to see twice each year, for crying out loud!)?
Why is it so easy to snap at our kids, give our husbands the cold shoulder, or roll our eyes at a dear family member, but remain gracious with those we meet in public, even when they do something that really grinds us?
I fear that many of us live out just such a contradiction in our daily lives. And just what lasting pictures are our cherished children depositing into their memory banks? “Mom held it together when the dry cleaners completely ruined her favorite sweater, but she yelled at me for accidentally spilling grape juice on the floor.” Oh, sisters, this should not be!
Perhaps it is time to offer some friendly hospitality to the members of our own home; to keep our tempers in check and our grumbling at bay; to let perfect love wash over a multitude of sins. Not the jelly-smeared, crumb-laden kind, but the hideous-word-hurling, mama-mouthed variety.
Oh may we Jesus-lovin’ women choose to hesitate before we hurl. Rather than feisty, may we be friendly instead.
Karen Ehman, KarenEhman.com