Does Practice Always Make Perfect?
"Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:13 (NIV)
"It's okay, slugger. Keep trying. Remember, 'Practice makes perfect.'"
The Little League baseball coach attempted to encourage my son who'd just struck out at the plate. Coach Mike wasn't the only adult to utter that phrase to one of my kids during their young life. My daughter's violin teacher spurred her students on to more hours of rehearsal by voicing the same phrase. And the kids' Bible-quizzing coaches ascribed to the truth of the old expression.
Teachers urge students to practice their penmanship. Bosses advise employees to practice their duties until they've sharpened their skills. And what former piano student can't still hear their teacher's voice echoing, "Practice, practice, practice"?
But is it true that practice always makes perfect?
Tucked away in the New Testament book of Romans, God seems to send us a quick text message by way of a simple two-word sentence: "Practice hospitality" but there is no mention of perfect.
However, the very word hospitality can evoke a feeling of panic and expectations of perfect. Images come to mind of magazine-like décor, gourmet-style fancy foods, spotless surroundings and stunning homes.
But do you, or your home or food, have to be perfect in order to practice hospitality?
I find it interesting when studying Bible verses, to not just look at what the verse says but also at what it doesn't say. Today's key verse does not say many things. It does not say, "Now those of you who have roomy, gorgeous homes, offer hospitality." Or "You culinary-savvy gals who can give Rachael Ray a run for her money, have people over for supper."
No reference to the cleanliness of our homes, the décor on our walls or our spatula-wielding expertise in the kitchen (or lack thereof). We are simply told to practice.
The verb "practice" is defined as "to perform an activity repeatedly or regularly in order to improve one's proficiency." It doesn't state we will ever gain perfection, only that we will see progress.
I'm thankful I was encouraged as a young woman to practice hospitality with the goal of getting better, not obtaining perfection. My starting point was near zero, knowing only how to boil water and make "slice and bake" cookies. Thankfully, God wasn't looking for perfection in this area for He would not have found it. Instead of looking at the condition of my home, He was more often looking at the condition of my heart.
So, over twenty years ago, I swallowed hard, whispered a prayer and began to open both my home and my heart. My practice has made progress. I have learned tips for decorating, methods for cleaning and gained an arsenal of easy, delicious dishes to offer guests.
However, I have also served burnt chicken, had company spy cobwebs on my light fixtures and moved piles of unfolded laundry off the couch so they could find a place to sit. Planned company may give us time to tidy up and whip up something yummy. But spontaneous hospitality means we need to be willing to welcome others into our lived-in homes and serve frozen pizzas and ice cream sandwiches with a smile.
Practicing hospitality is one of God's ways of encouraging us to bless others, but often we end up blessed instead. Will you join me in this venture as we make room in our hearts and our homes? Even with practice our houses, cuisine, and us may not be perfect, but we'll be connecting hearts and touching lives as we seek to serve those whom God puts in our path. Put the kettle on. Company's coming!
Dear Lord, forgive me for the times I've shied away from offering hospitality to others. Help me to welcome and serve people as You have commanded me to, knowing You are looking for progress, not perfection. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Who are some people you feel God nudging you to invite into your home? Make time to contact them soon.
Has there been someone in your life who showed you hospitality? What touched you most about your time with them?
1 Peter 4:8-10, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." (NIV)