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A Ministry of Hospitality

I’ve been wrestling with myself this past week, trying not to be anxious. Then I would “reason” with myself that the way of contemplation would be to live into the anxiety and note the culprits or triggers that are bombarding me. But sitting in an icky spot for too long is not my idea of savoring by definition. So I push it all away – resolving to live in ambiguity and denial with permission but for a short time.

Apparently there are layers of anxiety that are satisfied to isolate themselves from each other. The notion of intersectionality is not a thing to them. They are like little (or big depending on which one is more imminent) realmdoms each one existing in full-blown sovereignty and determined to be the one that leaves me undone. Needless to say, they are an antidote to sleep.

Whatever my inner self calls normal is in there somewhere, too. I imagine she is off on some fantastical island paradise where the colors are spectacular and the temperature is just the way I like it and not at all tropical despite the surroundings – a place where calories are not allowed, where ugliness has no place; where all the seats are comfortable and one-size-fits all is real. Happiness, here, is not contrived or necessary and time moves slowly enough so that I don’t miss anything.

But time is not my friend this week. Tomorrow is the first day of a very long month of summer classes. And in the fine-tuning, there are enough tasks to juggle to keep me very busy. But that cloud layer of anxiety hovers overhead. It is filled with the unknown pieces – the tasks that necessarily have to be completed by someone other than me. So is the variable of human-ness. I mean, that is where it can all come crumbling down. In my own estimation, I have been lied to, been ignored, been mis-represented and to be fair, have been encouraged, been assisted and been prayed for. In the end I’m certain it’ll all turn out ok. It usually does. But I needed to experience all the frustration that a big project brings. I thought about this ministry of hospitality as I was creating these short 20-minute chapels for the mornings. I feel called to offer these moments of spiritual hospitality to these folks who are going back out into the world to minister to others. And in thinking about it, I happened again on The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. (And we’re all wounded because we’re all in various stages of brokenness.) In it (admittedly at times it’s been difficult to get past all the “he” language) he suggests a few things that helped me move past the “stuckness” of my current condition.

“But just as bread given without love can bring war instead of peace, professionalism without compassion will turn forgiveness into a gimmick, and the kingdom to come into a blindfold.”

He points out several paradoxes. Here’s one instance:

“Concentration, which leads to meditation and contemplation, is therefore the necessary precondition for true hospitality … Paradoxically, by withdrawing into ourselves, not out of self-pity but out of humility, we create the space for another to be himself and to come to us on his own terms.”

So all that felt and said, I’m gonna just stand firm in the notion that God will show up regardless of human expectation or frailty. I’m going to watch and be vigilant, as I tend to be, waiting to capture the divine tidbits of awesomeness that led me to call myself one of the faithful. And I look forward to savoring, in the ways that are the most meaningful to my life’s purpose, how God’s glory shines through it all.

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