girl friends laughing together

Have you spent the past year and a half thinking about getting together with your friends? Opening up your door to visitors? Dreading the impending expectation of proper hospitality? Lockdown measures have forced us to get creative about our social lives, but now that they’re easing up, it’s time to consider how we will reconnect with friends in the months to come. Here are four ways you can prepare yourself for your reimmersion to the hospitality scene. 

The world is slowly emerging from its post-covid lockdown. For some, this could not come quick enough! 

For others, there remains the concern that it’s too soon. Yet there can be no doubt that a year of lockdown has changed us. 

Where we once enjoyed live concerts and traveling the world, we resigned ourselves to Netflix and Zoom meetings. 

Where we once lingered after church for sweet fellowship or friendly chats with the grocer at our neighborhood store, we now scurry to finish our to-do list and avoid the awkward eye to eye contact of masked faces.

So much has changed.

As we seek to re-enter into a now unfamiliar world, I find myself wondering what relationships will look like. 

After a year of hiding my face behind a mask, will I remember how to smile? After a year of 6ft of separation and hand-sanitizers, will I remember how to shake hands? 

After a year of being advised to shut the door and lock out the world, will I remember how to open my heart and home to those around me?

We often refer to Joseph in Genesis 50:20 when we say, “What Satan meant for evil, God meant for good.” But what if the opposite is also true? What if what was meant for good becomes twisted for evil?

What if the desire for safety is now a convenient excuse to avoid messy people? What if the lockdown became the perfect excuse to cut off that annoying relative in your life? What if the call to isolate justified your desire to be alone and uninterrupted?

While we may have been required to adjust how we went about our lives for the last year, I worry we have used what was meant for good to excuse or justify our fears and selfishness. 

And so the question is, how do we rebalance our life in the aftermath of a pandemic? How do we re-engage with a world that is still cautious and fearful? How do we love our neighbor when the masks come off?

 

EXAMINE YOUR HEART

As an introvert it seems I can never get enough alone time. It is difficult for me to give it up. 

I struggle between my selfish desire to be alone and the call to love and serve my neighbor. A year of not cleaning the house, preparing food for guests, and wearing real pants has made me—and I hate to admit it—lazy.

Perhaps you don’t struggle with laziness like I do; perhaps you struggle to open your door because you lost a loved one during the pandemic and the fear of losing more holds you in its grip. 

Yet God knows our struggles and fears, and when He is asking something difficult from us, it is for the sake of something higher we can not always see. Either way, we need to be aware when our fears or desires have mastered us and seek to replace them with God’s desires for us. 

Pray and ask God to reveal your heart and motives to you. 

We may feel fully justified in our actions, particularly when the world echoes its approval, but God alone knows if our reluctance to open our door is a result of selfishness or legitimate concern. 

When I bring my heart and motivations before God, He reveals and convicts the parts of me that need to change and realign with His will for me.

 

REMEMBER THE WHY

The second most important commandment is, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). 

While we have debated for months what that should look like during lockdown, there should be no debating what it looks like when lockdown is over. 

We were made for community and building a community takes time and effort. While many of us found and adjusted to an online community, others struggled to make intimate virtual connections or simply didn’t have access to reliable internet.

The Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy found that the rate of depression tripled in the US during the pandemic. This is not surprising news. The stress of an unknown future, crippled finances, and possible illness together with isolation created a perfect storm for weary hearts.

This is where the church must come in. 

We who have received the Good News of the gospel have been given the opportunity to share the love of Christ, and we must take that responsibility seriously. 

The world is broken and hurting, and we are on a first name basis with the Healer. 

We need to remember that the Great Commission doesn’t take a pause or rest even if we do. We need to recall the focus of our heavenly mission and let it spur us on toward love.

 

ASK GOD FOR DIRECTION

Perhaps you feel God’s prompting to open your heart and your home. Where do you begin? How to start?

The most obvious place may be to start where you left off, but ask God first. Don’t assume life will return to what you once knew; it rarely does in the aftermath of a giant shift. 

Perhaps God has something different in mind in the aftermath of the pandemic. Perhaps He has a new direction or a new ministry for you. 

While we may have lamented what we saw as lost opportunities, God is more than capable of restoring what was lost if we are willing to seek His direction. 

Spend time in prayer asking God what you should be doing in the coming months or who you should reach out to with a phone call or coffee date. It is amazing what happens when we seek God’s guidance, because if we are willing to listen, He answers! Start with what He reveals to you.

 

START SMALL

While it may not be wise to throw a block party (not like an introvert would ever dream of that), you can begin with small gestures. Start by simply asking a friend to come for tea or go out for lunch. 

Give yourself time to get back into the rhythm of inviting a guest over. I found I needed to refresh my hospitality skills and remember how to prepare for guests. Begin small and work from there.

You will likely find yourself refreshed after your first connection, giving you the confidence and desire to keep going. There is something uniquely precious about a face to face, heart to heart talk to which a text, Zoom, or phone call just can’t compare.

Be sensitive to those who are not ready to take this step, particularly those whose lives were torn apart by Covid. Not everyone escaped unscathed and many may not be able to re-engage with a still fragile world. 

Find other ways to stay connected and give them the space and grace to move forward when they are ready.

***

This last year revealed many areas of my life where I was fearful and selfish, and while that is never a pleasant discovery, it gave me an opportunity to invite God into those hard, uncomfortable areas to begin His work in and through me. 

After a year of limited connections, I now find myself more appreciative of the friendships I do have and treasure the time we are able to spend together. 

I pray that as we walk out into a new era, we would be willing to give friendships another chance to thrive, that our hearts would be softened to our neighbors around us, and that our doors would open as wide as our hearts.

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