Let’s be honest, we’re heading into a season of the year where these two things should consume our thoughts & actions…& yet they are usually the last things on our minds- somewhere under baking cookies & buying presents on the to-do list. We’re bombarded with personal expectations, societal pressures, family obligations & tensions. It’s supposed to be a time of year full of peace, excitement, wonder, & joy but we spend more time stressing ourselves out being frustrated over offenses & inconveniences.
Often through this, a few things can happen. We act like we’re big & bad, unaffected & untouched by these external pressures but festering on the inside, or we let the emotions out in negative ways, reacting with cold anger or angry venting. Rarely are we successful in truly being untouched & unbothered by whether or not we’re meeting those expectations. Usually that’s because our motives are in the wrong place.
I realized all this in myself this past year. My husband & I had recently moved into our new home & we were mostly settled in. We decided to have some family over for the “first Sunday” lunch. I went into it knowing that there’d be criticisms because of previous experiences I’d had with one person in particular. I told myself that this time would be different. I told me myself I wouldn’t care what this person thought of our new home- whether they liked it or not- because I liked our new home & was very proud of it & THAT’S what mattered. Despite all the mental preparation, all the “telling myself I wouldn’t care”, I didn’t realize I was doing it out of pride & self-satisfaction rather than trying to glorify God, & I didn’t realize how much I was still stressing myself out to make sure everything was perfect. Needless to say, the family arrived, critical comments were said (in front of everyone, no less), & the “not caring what the person thought”-demeanor just went out the window.
I. Was. Livid.
No, I didn’t “hulk” out on the person. I was scarier. You see, I’m the kind of person that, when angry, goes quiet & cold rather than in your face & boisterous. Before the end of the day, though, I pulled the person aside & let them know exactly how their comments made me feel, but it didn’t stop there. Everyone went their separate ways but I was left feeling bitter, angry, self-conscious, inadequate & empty instead of feeling full, joyful, & satisfied. That person’s comments impacted me the rest of the day & even multiple days after.
Once the anger began to fade I felt convicted by my reaction & how emotionally impacted I had become. I realized if I truly hadn’t cared (as I had told myself over & over I hadn’t) I wouldn’t have gotten angry at all. If truly the only thing that mattered were God’s thoughts of me & my hospitality, then that person’s comments wouldn’t have been an issue at all. I realized that hospitality in my home shouldn’t be stressful- it shouldn’t be about whether all the home-improvement projects are done or not- it should be about the general feeling of warmth & welcoming I create rather than trying to recreate the most recent “Better Homes & Gardens” cover. I should be opening my home in order to glorify God & make people feel loved, not for improving my own reputation. It’s not about having the best or most expensive home décor or furnishings, but about the emotional climate of the home.
I had been telling myself I was doing it all for God, but in reality I was still doing it for my own reputation.
In the face of situations like this, it’s easy to just go on with our anger & bitterness towards people we see as “toxic” or “hateful”. We hear all the time on social media that it’s “our right” to drop these “toxic” people when they offend us. While yes, it’s okay to have boundaries, it’s not okay to live in the anger, bitterness, & resentment. God calls us in His word to turn the other cheek- whether it’s in persecution of hurt feelings due to embarrassing criticisms- we’re still called to forgive & TURN. THE. OTHER. CHEEK.
And when the comments come- about your home being cheap, the weight you’ve gained, the lack of boyfriend/husband/children in your life- because they WILL come, pause for a second & remember to [as I like to say] “breathe in Jesus & breathe out love”. Respond with grace & patience. Yes, that person might be stubborn or purposefully trying to cut you down; yes, they may indeed truly be toxic in-heart…but so were we all at one point until someone gave us the cure- Jesus Christ- because His love & forgiveness is the cure for every spiritual & emotional toxin in the world. Let’s remember to be the ones to give the Cure of Christ by reflecting His grace, mercy, patience, & love…no matter what comes our way. So, as we approach the holidays & head towards finishing out this crazy year & decade, let’s make sure we truly reflect on & refocus our hearts. Let’s make sure that, whether you welcome people into your home or you’re the one being welcomed, that our actions & attitudes come from a heart of gratitude & grace, one whose purpose is to glorify God rather than ourselves. When people come into your homes, don’t stress about whether or not everything is perfect, but rather make sure we’re making that person feel welcomed, special, & loved…not just from ourselves but by God. Instead of freaking out over whether the food is seasoned just right, be concerned about whether our hearts & actions are. Instead of making sure the physical temperature is just cozy enough, let’s make sure the emotional & spiritual one is set perfectly…because THAT is what people will remember more than anything else if their hearts are in the right place. So, let’s make sure that when people leave our homes, that they’ve not only been satisfied with food, but more importantly, found satisfaction in the Lord Jesus.
Be blessed, friends!