Thursday, October 14, 2010

imperfect prose: bare foot hospitality

It’s not about offering a show place; it’s about offering a safe place.
-- Nancy Hill, When Company's Coming

Like the time Brian and I spent a frigid January morning wandering our smoke-stenched, firehose-drenched house for warm clothes for our homeless family.  We were exhausted, depleted, traumatized by a New Year's Eve house fire and needed a place to wash our clothes, resurrect them from the  acridity penetrating everything we owned in the entire world.  Andrea and Craig invited us to use their laundry room.  While we waited on the cleansing power of those machines, we sat in their living room across from each other.  I don't remember talking much, just being together in the quiet heat of a cozy room, January ice outside the window.  I felt cold and Andrea welcomed me to the homemade quilt draped on the couch behind our backs.  I doubt she actually walked across the room and tucked Brian and me into its well-stitched warmth, but in my memory that's what it feels like.  Brian and I spent a drowsy hour or so underneath the warmth of that blanket, under the protective cover of friends and furnace heat.  

We received an authentic hospitality that day.  That quilt and those friends providing us a soft place to land in the middle of chaos.  We were saved that morning, for that day, with a kind of gentle hospitality, a tender communion that has saved me so many times.  Not always in the traditional sense of hospitality - - being invited into another's home -- but sometimes in the sense of being welcomed into the gentle kindnesses of another.  

For example, my friend Lisa who offered to pick my daughter up from school and get her to swim practice today because my car was in the shop.  And doing it gladly.  Or my friend Earl, who wrote an almost wasteful amount of charitable words on my facebook page this morning.  How could he have known the chaos his gentle words subdued?

In a season teeming with relational chaos, I desire to create a gentle interior to welcome others into the safety of my intercession and blessing.  This is an almost impossible task.  I am full of sticks and stones; often the same hurling-devices pummeling me with accusatory self-talk threaten to annihilate the image of the very person I most need to welcome into my thoughts and prayers.  I wish to create inwardly what Henri Nouwen calls a "room with some spots on which one might walk barefooted". 
Today I imagined my inner self as a place crowded with pins and needles. How could I receive anyone in my prayer when there is no real place for them to be free and relaxed? When I am still so full of preoccupations, jealousies, angry feelings, anyone who enters will get hurt. I had a very vivid realization that I must create some free space in my innermost self so that I may indeed invite others to enter and be healed. To pray for others means to offer others a hospitable place where I can really listen to their needs and pains. Compassion, therefore, calls for a self-scrutiny that can lead to inner gentleness.
If I could have a gentle "interiority" -- a heart of flesh and not of stone, a room with some spots on which one might walk barefooted -- then God and my fellow humans could meet each other there. Then the center of my heart can become the place where God can hear the prayer for my neighbors and embrace them with his love."
-- From The Genesis Diary by Henri J. Nouwen

Kyrie eleison.

linking up:
On, In and Around Mondays 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...