Hello! My name is Staci. If you don’t know who I am, that’s okay. I’ve been coming to Grace Church with my husband (and now child) since 2008, but honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if you and I haven’t met because I tend to hang around the recesses of the shadows at church unless I’m singing on stage.
I’m a bit introverted.
What that means is I am most comfortable with and prefer the company of only a few people at a time instead of many. Don’t get me wrong: This doesn’t mean I don’t like or want to connect with people. During worship, especially, it's really powerful to be in community and to hear everyone singing and praising God together. I've always wanted to be an outgoing person, and I can be pretty good at acting like one if I push myself. In fact, I clearly remember getting palm sweats and a racing heart in school any time I’d meet someone new who had a Lisa Frank trapper keeper and liked unicorns. I’d immediately start agonizing about whether they’d ever want to be my friend despite my many self-perceived faults, and figuring out how I could make it happen.
Doing something out of your comfort zone in your journey with Christ is usually a good indicator that you’re moving in the right direction.
Now that I’m older, my focus has mostly shifted from wanting to impress people to “how can I show this person that I genuinely harbor the love of Christ for them?” In those miraculous times that I am able to summon the God-given strength to successfully engage a person in conversation or strike up a conversation online (the internet is a godsend for folks like me), there is one place where I can really shine and show them who I truly am, despite all my difficulties with social interaction. It’s my favorite place in the whole world—my house.
I have always had the same ultimate desire: for people to feel happy, safe, comfortable, and welcome while having all their needs met. Needless to say, when I was growing up sleepovers at my house were great. I’d go to great lengths to have themed food and to make sure there was plenty to do (you’d be amazed at how much glitter I had...er...have). I’d also construct the coziest ultimate pillow fortress you’ve ever seen. And I’ve been told I’ve always been good at making sure to have something else, which I learned about growing up in a big Czech family: home-cooked food, and lots of it.
When I realized that hospitality is a common theme through the entirety of scripture, I was encouraged because hospitality was something I thought I had on lockdown. As my relationship with Christ grew, I felt like this was something I could finally excel at, finally give someone a genuine experience without my awkwardness getting in the way. It might seem counterintuitive that an introvert like me would want to express themselves in this way, but it actually makes perfect sense. Extending hospitality is more natural for me mainly because when I am able to show nurturing—such as cooking for someone, bringing them food, making their bed, washing clothes or dishes, making sure they have everything they need (even if I happen to be at their house)—it’s not only distracting my brain from the pressure of having only one quick chance to make an impression by having to conversate right then and there, but it’s also showing them that I care about them without words being necessary.
I feel like words get in the way sometimes. This is especially true when you encounter someone experiencing grief. When it comes to situations like that, I honestly never have words. All I have to offer are hugs and a seemingly never-ending supply of casseroles. Sometimes you just need someone to help take care of you. This is a love language that transcends many barriers because it also goes beyond words; it meets basic human needs that each of us requires — shelter, food, and love.
Once I discovered where I can blossom, I realized the need to implement it by somehow going beyond where my comfort lies — beyond my literal house or my figurative ‘home’ (the people who I already am comfortable with). What if, when I was a child, instead of showing hospitality to a classmate who shared my affinity for Lisa Frank and unicorns, I had tried to show it to the quiet girl in the corner who never seemed to play with anybody? What kind of impact could I have had, especially knowing what I know now?
As hard as it is for me to swallow this, considering the social barriers I have, I have learned time and time again that doing something out of your comfort zone in your journey with Christ is usually a good indicator that you’re moving in the right direction. I know, you don’t want to hear that. Believe me, I didn’t either. Try to remember that withholding hospitality by ignoring or not reaching out to those people who God puts in your path, either literally or by placing them on your heart—whomever they may be—you're not only doing a disservice to them but also to yourself in your walk as you strive to be like Jesus.
Staci Bell is a mother, wife, seamstress and nonprofit technology specialist by trade who, as a human, specializes in being sometimes humorous, mostly awkward and always overly sensitive.