Sunday, 10 March 2013

Hospitality As An Expression of Love

"Every good relationship between people, whether it is friendship, marriage or community
creates space where strangers can enter and become friends.  All good relationships are hospitable.
When we enter into a home and feel welcomed, we soon realize that it is the love between those who live in that home that makes such a welcome possible.  
However when there is conflict in a home the guest is soon asked to choose sides.  Are you for him or for her?  Do you agree with them or with us?  Do you like him more than me?  These questions prevent true hospitality.  True hospitality is the opportunity for the stranger to feel safe and to discover his or her own gifts.  Hospitality is more than an expression of love for the guest.  First and foremost it is an expression of love between the hosts." - Henri Nouwen

It is sometimes difficult to put a finger on why in certain homes, we feel at ease, at our very best, at our most relaxed and content.  The homes where you are just as welcome to sit quietly with a book in the corner of the couch as you would be if you wanted too talk deeply over a cup of hot tea.  Where you are simply accepted for who and what you are and there is no need for falseness or pretense.  Where you truly may come as you are.  No one is disappointed in you for not meeting their expectations or for not meeting some bizarre measure of who they think you should be.  No one is watching covertly for you to slip up or for words or actions they can later use against you somehow through gossip or other means.  Where there is no judgement or hostility, just the infusing warmth of acceptance and love.  A genuine smile.  Caring words.  The gentle drawing out of your true self.

These homes are not always perfect.  They may be messy or unorganized and the meal may not be planned out to the last detail ahead of time.  But you are still welcome, even if you help to set the table yourself.  Get your own drink from the fridge.  Push magazines off the couch before sitting down.  These homes are where life happens.  And it is that very life than embraces you as a guest.  The way the host and hostess catch each others eye and smile.  A private moment but one you are permitted to enjoy.  Their love.  Their joy in each other.  The way a family can laugh together or talk in that familiar way that lets you know these are topics as old as time in this family.  These things catch you up and say this is our family but you are not separate from us, join in, be a part of our lives, we want you here.

I have been in some homes however where aesthetically speaking, everything is perfect.  The best of everything for the guest.  The finest wine, the richest and most plentiful food.  A genuine abundance. And yet, occasionally, I am still not quite at ease, I still feel as though something is missing,  This is equally difficult to put a finger on.  The slightest crackling of tension in the air.  The idea that all it means to be hospitable is a perfect home and a rich display of food.  A lack of interaction and observable love.  The discourtesy between host and hostess veiled as humor.  The stress of bright falseness.  The awkwardness of discovering that beyond the tangible abundance, you are not truly welcome.  Not deeply cared for. 

Naturally this is not to say that all perfect homes with rich food are cold or that all untidy home are always havens of welcome.  It has been my experience though that the warmth of the people in the homes contributes far more to feeling welcomed than flawless presentation does.  I have been in homes where the love is so tangible you just never want to leave.  Just curl right up and stay there.  Where the soul is refreshed and nourished.  I have also been in homes where the atmosphere is so tense and sterile and I feel like sleeping for a week after visiting because I am so emotionally drained.

Generally I try to be genuinely hospitable.  I want to have a home that is open to others in a profound way, one where others are free to be themselves without pretense.  Where they may relax and leave refreshed somehow.  I think then that as Nouwen so wisely says, the surest way to achieve this is to love those in my home right now.  Laugh with them.  Play with them.  Get to know them better every day.  Share life with them  And then open our door and share it with others.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

A World Swept Clean

Swept clean.  A world swept clean.  A heart swept clean.  A life swept clean...
Even a clean page is delightful thing.

I am beginning again because I want freshness in my mind.  I want my mind untroubled and unclouded by things that have gone before and since been put away.  Necessary things yes.  Pain as a process is a necessary thing, a teaching thing.  Quite exquisite really.  What we become afterward.
I have found myself very burdened however by my previous blog.  I believe it has run its course and served its purpose and now is only clinging to me in a sort of grasping, possessive way.  I am thankful for it.  But I want to say good bye to it now.

I am no longer there anymore, in spirit or actuality.  I recognize that voice, that woman.  She is of course me, not falsely me or pretending to be me, but me as I was then and perhaps in many ways still am now.  Although now, I want to let that all go.  Take from what I've experienced what I need and drop the heaviness of that load of hurt that accompanied it.

I know there are changes I have to make in my life.  Some are simple, physical changes and yet are not always simple to instigate.  Some are more complex and involve more growth, more stretching of the spirit, mind, and heart.   Some habits that should be put away and some new ones created, some of my words should be held back and not spoken and some words that do need to be spoken should be.  It's easy to speak of being more honest and difficult to decide in actuality what true, gentle honesty looks like in practice. Does it look like courage?  Does it look like genuineness?  What is it really?  And kindness, what does that look like in practice?  I have come to think that honesty and kindness go hand in hand.  Kindness isn't simply a bland niceness o general agreeableness, it can mean binging up something uncomfortable and difficult because ignoring it is not genuine kindness. 

The following really spoke to me: (I'm sorry I don't know its source.)

Sometimes honest confession can seem astonishing, impossible, and dangerous. Because we have learned silence so well, we experience honesty as full of risk. After all, if we are honest, then other people will know what we think and feel. We will be exposed. The appearance of strength and competence we work so hard to cultivate will have to share the stage with our weaknesses, our failings, our sins.
When we practice honesty as a daily discipline, however, something happens to us. The promise of this text begins gradually to grow in our lives. We begin to heal. It is not a dramatic, once-for-all-time, quick-fix kind of healing. Nor is it a private healing, a healing that happens only 'inside' our heads or in secret with God.
Honesty leads to healing because people can now express their love for us in practical ways. Honesty leads to healing because we no longer have to pay the high tariffs that pretense demands. We heal because the experience of acceptance counteracts the contempt we so easily heap on ourselves. We heal because we are no longer alone. We heal because we are known and loved.
Honesty is a discipline with a promise. We will be healed.

So I am not sure where this fresh start will lead. How I will write here.  I only feel as though I want to be genuine here.  Write for myself.  As though no one at all would read it.  What might I say then?  Who might I be?