When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
– Romans 12:13 (NLT)
Until recently, I always thought that the GREAT divide within the church was between married people and single people. It’s common to hear stories of married couples who essentially check out of their friendships with single friends, never to be heard from again. That kind of change is painful, and it causes the divide to seem great.
However I have recently been made aware of a different “great” divide: the divide between couples with kids, and people without kids. Prior to moving to Chicago, I hadn’t truly been confronted with this problem. Hardly any of my friends back home have children. Sure, there were the occasional conversations between young mothers that, try as I might, I could not break into. And sure there were times when I was never invited to walk around the mall with friends because I didn’t have a baby to bring along. Yes, those moments stung, but I had so many friends without kids that it easily rolled off my back.
Now that I live in a new place without that same network of friends, the divide has been thrown into stark relief. I don’t know why, but in the time I’ve lived here I haven’t met one married couple that does not have kids. Now, I wouldn’t mind that social dynamic at all if it weren’t so difficult to overcome. Some of the difficulty is due solely to the difference in schedules–once kids come along, you don’t have the same degree of freedom as you did before. That’s just a reality. But there is also a degree to which I can feel left out or even excluded because I’m not a mom. I can’t go on play dates. I can’t contribute to conversations about teething or potty training.
As a difficult as this has been, I understand why this happens and I don’t think it is AT ALL intentional. If I had children, I think I would be so delighted that I could not help but talk about it all the time! It is natural for moms to talk about their kids–especially since that is the main focus of their every days. Nor has every mother led me to feel like an outsider. Some of the women I’ve met have been genuinely welcoming and warm, going out of their way to reach out to me.
Having said that, my present circumstances are a great reminder that these divides between life-stages are fundamentally about hospitality. So often we define hospitality as the ability to put on a good dinner party, or how often you open your home to others. But hospitality is much more comprehensive. Hospitality has less to do with your dinner party skills and more to do with your lifestyle. Do you make people feel welcome? Do you spend time with women who are at different life-stages than you? Are your attitude, your marriage, AND your home all welcoming environments for others? You might be the Martha Stewart of table displays and casseroles, but you can still be an inhospitable person.
Living a lifestyle of hospitality takes work, and it is not for married couples alone. Every Christian is to be hospitable. What does that look like in practical terms? Well first consider Merriam-Webster’s definition of “hospitable”:
- Given to cordial and generous reception of guests
- Promising or suggesting generous cordial or welcome
- Offering a pleasant or sustaining environment
With these definitions in mind, consider the “environment” you create with your attitude and body language. Consider what your conversation topics and how you spend your free time are communicating to those around you. Are you someone who only spends time with people just like you? Are you only able to carry on conversations with people who have a family or background just like yours?
I would particularly encourage married women and mothers to reach out to single women and women who struggle with infertility. Too often we assume that these women wouldn’t want to spend time with us, that our families might somehow be a source of pain for them. This is almost never true. Sure, there might be moments of jealousy, but I have never in my life heard a single woman bemoan the fact that her married friends always want to hang out with her. Instead it’s just the opposite–it’s a blessing to be included.
So no matter where you are in life, consider whether you are a hospitable person. Do you have a hospitable marriage? Do you have a hospitable attitude? Do you exude a warmth of spirit that creates a hospitable environment wherever you go? Showing hospitality is not just for those who are naturally gifted, but for all Christians. It is how we strengthen our community, how we share the love of God, and how we show the world that our unity in Christ transcends our circumstantial differences.
Lord, give me the wisdom to remember these words…and to remember being the childless family! Thank you for your truth (and grace) displayed on this topic. And I’m praying that I ALSO become more and more hospitable to people of all backgrounds religiously. Not only to become more Christ-like in living among the lost, but to allow the Holy Spirit to work through me in their hearts as I seek to more like Him!
Thank you for this post. And for your heart!
YES YES YES…great post and my husband and I were just, very literally, having this conversation about being hospitable to our myriad of friends of walks and stages in life.
It IS a blessing to be included, I have been on both sides of the fence and now have ‘paid forward’ the love that was extended to me while I was struggling with fertility issues. And not only that struggle but other life struggles in general…being a newlywed, going through ‘rough patches’, etc.
I look forward to watching how this unfolds for you.
What a fabulous article. My husband and I recently moved to Louisville so we could go to seminary here, and we can TOTALLY relate!! In fact, as I was reading this, I was wishing we lived in the same town, because we need more like-minded couples like y’all in our lives! 🙂 Thanks for this gracious reminder to be hospitable, regardless of life circumstances.
Mama Jaja–love the idea of “paying it forward.” That’s a fun way to think about it!
Shelby–I wish we did too! Best of luck finding new seminary friends. Maybe we can pray for each other!
Sharon, Josh and I have encountered the same situation! There is not one couple that we’ve met with out kids…so strange, huh? I appreciate your post partially because I can relate to your situation and have been pondering along those lines, but it’s a good reminder too!