The Art of Inviting
I grew up with a strange ability too see into two very different worlds.
My main world, my hometown. A place where I lived cultured in smocked and french hand sewn dresses, old south traditions, and a strange ability to understand all of it. Though there’s no “old money” in my line and my parents weren’t exactly “old south” in their ways, but my mother’s parents leaned toward the traditions of the south, the ones that are charming and good (their accents made you feel like you were living in a scene from the Notebook) and they indeed immersed me in it as well, not forcing it upon my life but rather just living theirs plainly.
My father was not from the “old south” town. But rather a simply southern place. Country would be a better term if describing it. You might get a taste of a little hillbilly that only emerges from him when he lets himself get a little too heated about something. My Dad’s parents were farmers. True farmers, not a little gentleman’s farm, but for a living. It was no hobby but a livelihood. They were the people who shelled peas on the porch, NEVER went out to eat, had an extra deep freezer in their living room for all their harvested vegetables, and they taught me the joy that comes from eating a GOOD tomato sandwich.
The south is covered in about a million different avenues of “southern” I have learned. All of them are interesting in their own fashion, built up with strange ideas and somewhat charming traditions. But one thing you will inevitably find in every facet of “southernness” is the innate culture of hospitality.
The same grandmother who taught me the meaning of a “sip and see” (if you don't know what that is, I'm happy to explain), made me some of the finest french lace dresses sewn BY HAND, and always made sure I understood how “unbecoming” it was to go in public with wet hair, is also the same woman who mentored dozens of women and couples, had them in her home, took them on trips, and dedicated her life, heart, and soul to ministering to them with her time and the roof over her head.
The Grandmother who taught me the true art of peeling peaches (which i still stink at), put mayonnaise on skin burns, and made sure I drank a little Diet Dr. Pepper everyday so that I got my “minerals”, is also the woman who the whole community calls “Aunt Irue” (pronounced Ain’t) because she made everyone who entered her home comfortable enough to help themselves to her fridge of food and sweet tea. Her home was theirs too.
Neither of them was greater than the other, but both of them knew and understood the true art of simply opening their door. They weren't prideful in what they had nor were they ashamed or afraid of not having enough. Because they had that innate “southernness” about them, they understood that those who entered their home didn't actually NEED their finest china or greatest batch of sweet tea. What people needed was them. They needed their kindness,they needed someone to be family when theirs was falling apart, they needed to see and be touched by a strong marriage, they needed to be heard and not overlooked.
Our culture, I fear has become crunched for time and schedules that have no space for intention. We easily hide behind un-responded texts so we don't have to “do” more. We love letting people “SEE” into our lives instead of letting them “BE” in them. Our screens have become our support to replace the silence of our empty homes and our doors stay locked lest someone enter and not like what we have to offer.
As a southerner who witnessed two drastically different southern cultures. I have an inheritance on both sides of southern hospitality that brims with great intention. Yet, somehow my ability falls short with insecurity and worry, with a fear of opening my own door.
Pre-social media, the only way for someone to see into your life was if an invitation was extended to you or by you. It’s a wonder the amount of access we have to connection with each other, yet loneliness is on the rise.
I felt prompted recently to invite some folks to my home for supper but thought: “my home is small, they probably don't want to come, OR what if they only come because they feel obligated.”
I felt the Holy Spirit correct me quickly, “If you have thoughts that nobody wants to come to your house, it probably means they want to be invited and the enemy is convincing you otherwise”
The next day I made a call and they came excitedly for supper.
The Greatest gift we have been handed is an invitation to walk in life with the one who gave life to us. If we are made in His image, doesn't that make us excellent extenders of invitations?
Whether your culture is full of warm, hospitable comfort or cold uninviting nature, we all need each other. We need to be seen and to see other. Not by mere observation on the other side of the next iPhone update, but with the intention that comes with truly being invited