When you are building your community and then you are rejected, it is painful! This is what you need to know to deal with rejection well.
What if my hospitality is rejected?
It was black Friday a few years ago and I was busy at work in the kitchen. A turkey that had been brining for 24 hours was in the oven, the bread for stuffing was pulled apart into pieces, the potatoes were pealed. We had spent Thanksgiving Day out of town visiting family, but we had heard from many people we loved that they were not going to have a home cooked meal for Thanksgiving. That just wasn’t acceptable to us. So we planned a meal at our home the day after Thanksgiving.
As I opened home canned applesauce and cooked corn on the stove, the phone began to ring. People were telling us they didn’t plan to come. One by one every single person we planned the event for said they were too busy to come or ended up eating that meal the day before somewhere. I stood in front of a stove bursting with food and countertops exploding with enough to feed my family for a week and the tears came.
I had planned this meal for weeks. I had sacrificed an otherwise tight grocery budget. I had woken up early to get the house ready and the food done on time. My house smelled delicious and there would be no one to share it with.
I was hurt and angry. These people said they needed community for a holiday and I had done my best but now they were too busy for me. “What are we supposed to do with all this food?” I asked between tears. And my husband went into problem solving mode. He started making calls. Many people were unavailable but several people said, “Do you mean today? I’m free and I would love to come!”. We probably invited 45 people for the 15 who showed up. We honestly just started calling everyone we could think of from our relatively new church but everyone who came was honored we thought of them and genuinely thankful for the meal.
It turned out that all the food I made was devoured and what wasn’t was sent home for leftovers. We laughed with our new friends and enjoyed a rare, spontaneous moment with people who started forming relationships within our walls.
After plates were full and people had settled into every chair we owned, I looked out over my living room. It was bursting with smiling faces and laughter and I realized a few things about rejected hospitality.
Anytime we face rejection it hurts. People may outright tell us they want nothing to do with us or they may just make themselves scarce in our lives but it doesn’t really matter, it always hurts. It’s ok to acknowledge that pain but it’s not okay to dwell there. God doesn’t tell us to be hospitable until someone doesn’t respond well. He just says to be hospitable. The pain is real but so is the blessing if we push through to honor Christ.
It doesn’t reflect anything about us
Rejected hospitality can feel like a personal attack. Don’t let it. There may be times when someone genuinely desires to hurt us but more likely they just don’t realize how we feel. I can guarantee none of the guests for the party I just told you about meant to hurt my feelings and a few of their regrets were legitimate. I’ve had to cancel plans because I had sick kids or due to the issues I face with chronic illness. We’ve all been there. And I know I never meant it as a personal attack.
Even those people who just told us they didn’t want to come because they found somewhere to eat the Thanksgiving meal the day before did not mean to hurt me. They just weren’t putting themselves in my position and had no way of knowing that everyone else had also cancelled.
We cannot allow ourselves to believe that these people meant us ill and we cannot let ourselves think that there is something wrong with us or our hospitality. We are doing the right thing. We are extending the grace of welcome and it is beautiful. God can use it even when it feels like He can’t.
Related: The Embarrassing Story that Taught Me 4 Valuable Lessons on Hospitality
It isn’t about us anyway
As soon as people starting calling to cancel and I started my pity party one thing was glaringly clear – I had made this about me. What I thought was a generous opportunity for me to help others during what can be a lonely time was really somehow about me. I never would have realized this if they hadn’t all cancelled. Did you notice when you read what I wrote above that my reactions turned the entire focus of the party to me? I wasn’t sad my friends would miss a good meal and fellowship. I was angry I had been given the cold shoulder.
It was then I realized, hospitality isn’t only about me. Hospitality is supposed to be an opportunity for everyone to grow in community. It is supposed to be a chance for my guests to experience warmth and welcome. It is supposed to be a chance for me to obey the commands of God. And yes, it is an opportunity for me to develop deeper relationships. But I am not the center of the world and I should not be the center of my hospitality goals either.
God’s plans are better than ours
You may have a beautiful picture of what you think you will be doing with your hospitality efforts but that may not be anything like how it turns out. God is ultimately in charge of the details and it is far better that way.
I had a vision for how I thought my hospitality efforts that Thanksgiving Day were going to turn out. I was going to fill my home with people who didn’t have family to spend the holiday with. They were going to be so much more appreciative of a home cooked meal because they hadn’t had one in a while. My vision seemed beautiful. And then it fell to pieces. Everything I thought I was doing well was shattered.
Instead my home was filled with other people who had just returned from a holiday away like I did. There were single people, retired couples, and young parents. They feasted in my home together and deepened relationships. And God used that.
We can’t get so tied to our plans that we think God’s work has to look like we expect it to.
Related: 6 Practical Ways to be Hospitable This Week!
God is Bigger than Your Rejection
When our hospitality is rejected it feels awful. It feels like a personal attack. Suddenly we are back in high school and someone in the popular crowd just ignored us. But the reality is, our lives are much bigger than that.
We offer hospitality, not because people will always accept it, love it, or even know how to take it.
We offer hospitality because God commands us to (1 Peter 4:9) and we believe His commands are for our good.
We offer hospitality because we have been welcomed by Christ and we are supposed to welcome others in the same way (Romans 15:7).
Then we sit back and watch as God brings together our little ragtag community around us. People who love us and enjoy our hospitality become fixtures in our homes, loneliness is cast off, deep relationships form, and the Gospel is cherished more because it is the shared focus of our endeavor.
When your efforts to welcome are rejected, it does hurt but do not lose heart. God is bigger than your plans and He is at work both in you and in them for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Have you ever experienced rejected hospitality? What was that experience like? Let me know in the comments below!
I’m in my late 60’s, love to entertain and have experienced this many, many times. In fact, it happened just tonight, as I was planning a small gathering this weekend. People are terrible about RSVP’ing, and that was the case today. I really think most of those guests don’t entertain much themselves, and just don’t think about the prep work. It does smart, when people reject us, and reading your post was right on time for me. I have gotten better about taking it so personally, or at least taking it so personally for longer than 15 minutes!
Your solution was inspired. I have found that things do seem to work out, although now that I am widowed, caring for my elderly Mom, I absolutely must have those head counts in advance. I’m getting too old to turn on a dime, everything must be prepared days in advance. I can’t and won’t turn myself into a pretzel anymore, and I find if I make the decision for wavering invitees, as graciously as possible, they either make a point of not missing my next gathering or I, like you, find other folks I want to get to know and enjoy, and they want the same. I make the overture, and if it’s not well received, I’ve tried and I shrug it off better now.
Aw! Thank you for sharing your story! I think you are definitely right that people just don’t realize what has gone into the gathering you planned ahead of time. Your suggestion about making the decision for people is a good one too! That can be hard to do graciously but it definitely saves sanity! I’m sorry about your weekend plans! Love your heart behind it and desire to reach out, even when it is hard! <3