Singleness. Ladies, we either love it, hate it, or ride the rollercoaster of both emotions, don’t we? One of the questions that tends to jostle our contentment in the midst of this season is: How many areas of life will we miss out on?
The truth is, everyone, regardless of their marital status, is missing out on something. The call of Jesus is a call to miss out in the here-and-now for the sake of future gain. So, there are some things we’ll have to wait and pray for. But, there are other areas of involvement, commonly associated with marriage, that don’t necessitate it as a precursor. One of these is practicing hospitality.
My ideal hospitality situation would have been in the context of marriage and children. My family would have another family or a group over to our Pinterest-worthy house for a home-cooked meal and an evening of chatting and laughing. The visit would be all the more enjoyable because I had the benefit of tag-teaming it, physically and emotionally, with my husband.
This is why we need to look at hospitality as less of a setting and more as a posture of service we can contextualize. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how to practice hospitality. Since I work full-time outside of my home, I also find I’m short on the time and energy needed during the week to make a nice homemade meal. And more often than not, it’s easier for me to go over to my friends’ houses because of their kids’ schedules than it is for them to come over to mine. This means I’m often not the host, but the guest.
As believers, what we know about hospitality is that it’s a must. And it sometimes takes a little creativity, mixed with some trial and error, to figure out how to practice hospitality right where we are. Here are several ways I’ve been able to (imperfectly) engage in hospitality and some that I’m hoping to adopt
ONE: Helping others create a hospitable environment
I’ve frequently imagined that my home would be the go-to place, with people dropping in throughout the week. But, I’ve spent more time living at others’ houses, and my address has changed so many times that I have trouble filling out documents that require my last 5 years’ worth of zip codes. As a result, my hospitality has been constricted. Not only that, but my personality isn’t as naturally extroverted as I once led myself to believe. So, how can I be involved in hospitality in the midst of all this?
I’ve come to see that one of the ways I can practice hospitality in my vagabond, single years is by helping others create a hospitable environment in their home. Whether it’s helping a friend cook or clean before a party, taking a turn bringing desserts to small group, or staying later to make sure all the clean up is taken care of, the old adage is true: many hands make light work.
TWO: Remembering the little people
Most of my friends’ families are pretty close to being complete, while I haven’t even had the chance to get started. I’ll be honest, that’s really hard sometimes. One of the things I’ve wanted the most is to be able to open my home to children that I can call my “own” — to nurture, care for, and raise them. Yet, there are plenty of ways I can influence children and young ladies, even though none of them are “mine.”
For example, I can invest in friends’ marriages and children or free them up to counsel another couple by offering to babysit. I can model what a godly woman looks like by spending one-on-one time with my friends’ little girls. I can mentor a middle school, high school, or college student that I go to church with. The possibilities are as vast as my willingness to forego my pity parties.
On my worst days, I get stuck in a lament that I don’t have children to raise or the reality of the transient nature of many of these relational investments. On my better days, I realize the truth that everything the Lord gives is for a season. So, the question is, what will I do with the unique ability and emotional energy to invest in as many girls’ lives as I choose?
THREE: Housing longer-term guests
Singleness often affords a luxury of freedom that I, alone, get to decide how to use. Whether it’s time, possessions, or housing, I don’t have to consult anyone else in making my decision. While I have the freedom that many married people miss, I also have an abundance of alone time — more than I care to entertain.
This allows me to open my home — or, apartment — to visitors passing through or to young ladies who need a place to stay for a few weeks or months. Honestly, having strangers in my space isn’t always my favorite thing to do. It can be awkward and inconvenient and shows me where I fall short of showing hospitality without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). But I know the blessing it is — both to me and my guests — through personal experience.
In His Word, God instructs us to actively look for ways to contribute to our brothers’ and sisters’ needs and to seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13). This is a way I can proclaim that my time, my home, my possessions, even my plans, are not my own. They belong to the Lord, and I don’t want to shrink my soul by being stingy with what He has given me.
FOUR: Creating a welcoming environment at work
In Christians circles, we often talk about the truth of how marriage sanctifies us because it’s a joining of two sinners. And, call me crazy, but I want to experience that.
Instead, God has graciously given me a job in ministry, and I spend most of my day in the office with about 10 co-workers. After a few jobs, I’ve started to say, tongue-in-cheek, “Who needs marriage when you have co-workers?” Even though I work with believers, the reality is that when you put sinners together for 8+ hours a day, you’re going to feel the heat.
Hospitality at work is not unlike hospitality at home. As a Christian who believes that the gospel should affect every area of my life, I can continue to close my heart to those around me, bury my head in the sand, and look out for #1 on my way to success, or I can walk in the Spirit, be kind and tenderhearted (Ephesians 4:32), look for ways to give grace with my words (Ephesians 4:29) and my acts, and show perfect courtesy to my friends (Titus 3:2).
Is my office a safe-haven where my female co-workers can come and find a sympathetic ear, hear truth spoken, and feel encouraged? Do my brothers feel built up by me? Am I a willing, glad-hearted servant? I’ve failed in these areas, but I pray, by God’s grace, I’ll leave the fragrance of Christ in the places I work.
FIVE: Pray for openness and opportunities
Two of the greatest hindrances to my practice of hospitality are my selfishness and my ignorance. Selfishness is obvious; I see opportunities to show hospitality, but I willingly choose not to engage in them because I’m too lazy, comfortable, or it’s not my preference.
Ignorance is more subtle, though. For example, I didn’t realize what an opportunity I had for hospitality at work until I started writing this article. I was blinded to it. I also struggle with hospitality in my apartment complex because of my lack of familiarity with certain ethnicities that live around me. I shrink back from extending a hand of friendship for fear of doing something wrong.
Ladies, the Lord sees, knows, and purposes our situation as singles. He’s acquainted with the unique joys, challenges, and disappointments we face. He also sees our obedience and faithfulness — however imperfect. Every attitude and act of hospitality, especially toward one of His sons or daughters, is as if it’s done to the Son, himself, and pleases our Father greatly (Matthew 25:40). Let’s seek His help to use the freedoms and flexibility He’s given us in our singleness to create a culture of hospitality wherever we go.
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