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From Hygge to Christian Hospitality

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Hygge is self-edification, creating the feeling of comfort and security. But Christian hospitality focuses outward, creating a safe place for weary souls.

The first time my mom visited my town house after I got married, she declared: “Wow, this place looks great! I guess all it needed was a man’s touch.”

I laughed because my mama knows me well — home decorating has never been my strength. My husband, Kevin, had made a few noticeable adjustments to the decor, and the place had never looked better.

Whether or not homemaking is your talent, most people appreciate a cozy, inviting living space. We see our homes as a refuge and a place to escape the stresses of a hectic world. Maybe that’s why the Danish concept of hygge [pronounced HOO-gah] has received such attention in recent years. Hygge is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

Hygge is more than matching throw pillows or a scented candle. It’s the feeling of comfort, connection and security. (Etymologically, hygge is appropriately linked to the word “hug.”) Not surprisingly, the trend has spread from Scandinavia — land of long winters — to the rest of the world, through home decor books and cookbooks.

The missing piece

Kevin and I have now been married for 10 years. During the past decade, we have sought to cultivate a sense of coziness and comfort in our home. But while the concept of hygge brings many wonderful things to the table, at its core, it’s about self-edification — personal comfort and a means to cope with the harshness of life.

Hygge stops short of the biblical concept of hospitality, which involves inviting others into the warmth and comfort of the atmosphere you have created. First Peter 4:9 states simply: “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” I have always been intimidated by this edict. I’m a so-so cook, a below-average housekeeper and an introvert. I’ve tended to think that hospitality was something other people do — people who are gifted at it (and we all know people like that).

But I’ve come to realize that a warm and welcoming home environment reflects Christ, who says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, HCSB). Simple acts, such as tidying up, making coffee and turning on the front porch light can be used by God for eternal purposes. As Kevin and I have pushed past hygge to true hospitality, we have seen the power a Christ-centered home can have. Here are three ways a home can reflect Christ:

A home can be a place to rest. We live in a hectic, fast-paced world. In all the busyness, our homes can be a place where people find rest. Some of my favorite conversations have happened while sitting around the coffee table on our overstuffed, far-from-pristine sectional. Over cups of coffee, we have laughed and cried and prayed with precious souls. People from all stages of life have sat on that couch. Hopes and fears have been shared, and God has entered into that sacred space. Kevin and I seek to make our home a place where others are comfortable and feel safe. 

A home can be a place to belong. Many times, especially during my single years, God used someone else’s hospitality to quell my loneliness and give me a sense of belonging. Psalm 68:6 (NIV) says, “God sets the lonely in families.” Kevin and I have come to realize that God can use our home to accomplish this purpose. When we open up our space — whether to a group of teenagers or the single mom next door — we give friends a place to feel invited, accepted and loved. They can receive that “hug” from God that they’re craving.

A home can be a place to discover God’s hospitality. Not only did Jesus practice hospitality during His time on earth, eating with sinners and engaging with all types of people, but He also offered the ultimate hospitality when He died and rose again to bring sinners to God (1 Peter 3:18). God has shown us hospitality in giving us His presence, Sonship and an eternal inheritance. We are invited! And we can model that to others when we invite them into our homes. Pastor and author John Piper says, “The joy of receiving God’s hospitality decays and dies if it doesn’t flourish in our own hospitality to others.”

The warmest welcome

Making our home welcoming and comfortable for others has required work, but making the effort has been good for our marriage. And as we work together to extend hospitality on a regular basis — and share what God has established in our relationship — we experience the joy of God using us as a team to bless others. While cooking and decorating skills are a plus, Kevin and I have come to realize that true hospitality is more about our willingness than our talent.

This past year we offered to host a small group for people new to our church, an undertaking I was nervous about. On the first night, Kevin and I carefully prepared the coffee and made sure the floors were swept and the candles lit. That night, as we cried over one another’s stories, laughed together and ate cookies, we glimpsed a bit of what hospitality is meant to do. Hygge has its place, but we’ve found true joy through sharing that comfort with others.

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Expectant Parents: Preparing together for the journey of parenthood and the co-author of Grit and Grace: Devotions for warrior moms. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, and four young children.

How strong is your marriage? Find out today with the Focus on Marriage Assessment. This reliable assessment is based on the research and experience of Focus on the Family’s marriage experts Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley. Take this free assessment now.

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