Hospitality Part One – Shrinking my Bubble

3 April

Is this horse is trying to invade my personal space?

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, (1 John 4:18).

Many Americans don’t think of hospitality as a ministry.  To be perfectly honest, we like our privacy.  We need our space.  We have a personal bubble that only our family and our very closest friends may enter.  I was one of those people.

When I moved to Italy, it was very challenging for me to enter church and be kissed fifty times before I made it to my seat.  But week after week, little by little, my resistance broke down.

Sometimes a friend wanted to talk with me, and stood too close while doing it.  For a man to stand too close was especially unnerving—even a good friend, and even now.  I would try to bring the person’s face in focus by cocking my head back and looking through the reading part of my bifocals.  When that didn’t work, I would try gazing over the top of my glasses.  At that point, the only thing left for me to do was to take a step back.  The speaker always closed the gap, taking a step toward me.  This dance continued until I was cornered, which happened every single time.

I had a fear of strangers (xenophobia), particularly men, and a massive fear of germs (mysophobia).  Fear of germs no doubt had something to do with the challenge of being kissed so much at church.  But it was absolutely intolerable for a stranger to invade my bubble, especially if the stranger touched me[1].  Beggars in this part of the world don’t know about personal bubbles.  They don’t often do it, but sometimes beggars will touch your hand as they ask for money.  This used to frighten me so badly that I would abandon whatever I was doing and immediately flee for the safety of home.

Now, fifteen years later, I have a smaller personal bubble.  The phobias have been healed.  The fear of germs is completely gone, and the fear of strangers is within normal bounds now.  The bubble is still there, I can assure you.  I still don’t like for strangers to invade my bubble, and especially to touch me.  But now I know and understand that I am not in any physical danger.

With friends, the only time that the bubble is an issue is if their breath is an issue—and honestly, sometimes I know that my own breath is an issue.  In the case of offensive breath (mine or my friend’s), the best course of action is to reach into my bag, get some minty gum, pop a piece in my mouth, and then offer a piece to my friend.  Even if they refuse, the gum in my own mouth will usually overwhelm the friendly fire of halitosis aimed in my direction.

So if you’re called to a hospitality ministry, the first step is to shrink your personal bubble.  God will help you do that.  He is the Perfecter of love, and He will grow His love in you.  God is good!

[1] I’m not talking about the inadvertent touch, shoulder to shoulder on a crowded bus.

2 thoughts on “Hospitality Part One – Shrinking my Bubble

  1. Oy! My problem is personal messiness! I joke about it, “Clean enough for healthy, cluttered up with fun….” but I shrink every time an unannounced visitor is at my door. When I plan a party, which I just have for the end of Sept, I begin to freak out way before the date. God has spoken to me about hospitality. And I’m working on my attitude. As people often say to me, “They come to see your clean house, they come to see you!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sure your house is fine, Judy! I joke that I give the house a good clean twice a year, whether it needs it or not. But seriously, my key teammate (which I didn’t mention in the post) is my housekeeper. The day before visitors come, she comes by and cleans house from top to bottom. Of course, she doesn’t do anything about clutter–that’s my job. But it takes a lot of the stress out of hosting. Plus, it blesses her with work. That’s what I call a win-win!


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