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Welcome, Stranger

After spending a full year in transition – crashing with friends or hammocking in parks – I have a home. I love it more than I’ve loved any home, and I think that’s because I get to create it. I get to make it a place that’s filled with love and laughter. A refuge, a safe place, a sanctuary of sorts. I want my home to exist to cultivate life and be a place for flourishing and for inviting others in.

For most of my life, I had no concept of “home.” I had every reason to leave and no desire to return. I’m still baffled by the idea of owning a home that’s not mobile (not a tent, car, or backpack), but I’m beginning to understand why people seek out and long for a space called home.

A new friend who slept on my couch recently told me that the church he grew up in was a lot about looking good to others and less about living out what you believe. I couldn’t help but wonder – what if instead of rules and traditions, Christians were known for their hospitality and warmth?

The Bible actually tells us to seek to show/practice/be inventive in hospitality. Honestly, hosting people made me so nervous at first. I wondered, “What if I forget to offer them water and they die of dehydration, we sit in awkward silence, they aren’t comfortable enough to sleep, or we aren’t instant best friends? But then I realized – God doesn’t tell us to have it all together, have a perfect home, or be the best at it, but we’re all commanded to do it anyhow. He says to practice, seek to grow, and be creative with hospitality.

In my two months of having a home, I’ve been learning that hospitality means more than inviting someone into my physical space – it means loving them and welcoming them into my life. It’s inviting a new person to join a hike with my friends or a night at my favorite jazz club. It’s sharing my greatest joys and being honest about my fears. Discretion and healthy boundaries are absolutely necessary, but I think that authentically loving others requires a level of selflessness that’s worth pursuing.

I like to think of strangers as potential friends, and sometimes, that weirds people out. But usually when I welcome people into my life, they welcome me into theirs. And then I get the privilege of hearing their stories, their pain, their dreams, their hearts. My favorite part about all of it is that in hearing who they truly are, I get to love them for who they truly are. I get to give people a safe place in my heart as much as in my home.

Maybe I’m crazy, or maybe I’m just trying to love like Jesus. Let’s be real – Jesus had a thing for welcoming complete strangers into his inner circle and inviting them along on his journey. Why not do the same?

So what does hospitality look like for you? Maybe it’s giving a weary traveler a place to sleep, showing them around your city, or cooking them a meal. It can be inviting a neighbor/coworker/acquaintance into your community, going on an adventure, or drinking coffee together. But I think true hospitality is inviting people in just as they are, seeing the good in them, and encouraging them to step fully into who they were made to be.