christine pohl wrote a wonderful book called Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. in it she writes,

Strangers whose needs and difficulties seem beyond their control are perceived as “deserving” of help and are more readily welcomed. These strangers, using Philip Hallie’s image, are persons who need to be and can be “rescued” from a “hurricane” – some externally caused problem or disaster. Those who bring the “hurricane” with them in the form of addictions or severe mental illness also need welcome, but informal personal hospitality alone is rarely sufficient. p100

our friend had a hurricane.

and because of that hurricane and the events that unfolded as a result and the risks it imposed on our family and himself, we had to withdraw our hospitality. it was one of the hardest things i’ve had to learn. withdrawing hospitality from someone, even if needed, is probably never going to be neat or easy. in our case it was heart-wrenching. we still love our friend and are praying that he knows that.

i’ve wondered over and over this week why we were seemingly blind to some things that led up to his leaving saturday. hindsight is never perfect but it is amazingly more insightful than the view from the starting line. God has been good and gentle with us and prevented bitterness or anger from welling up in us. He has indeed been gracious and loving while teaching us some things He wanted us to learn.

in a particularly hard moment in this hardest of weeks, i told omar that i didn’t think i could do this again. but as the words came out i knew it wasn’t true. we knew the risks going in. perhaps not fully, but we knew them. it wasn’t out of duty that we welcomed him in. it is because as each day goes by i (and i think i could say “we” here) am more convinced that doing things as seemingly reckless as opening up our home to a desperately needy friend is a way to demonstrate in an extremely small yet tangible way Christ’s love of us. and it’s a way for us to have to deeply trust God’s goodness and plan. this is not at all to say that i don’t waiver or have times when i just don’t want to do it (there are plenty of those!).

pohl puts it perfectly:

Offering hospitality requires that we allow a place for uncertainty, contingency, and human tragedy…Hospitality becomes less difficult and more “natural” as we grow more familiar with the practice. p171

Hospitality is not so much a task as a way of living our lives and of sharing ourselves…While rarely without difficulty, hospitality can become so fully integrated into who we are and how we respond to others that we cannot imagine acceptable alternative responses. p172


9 thoughts on “heart-wrenched

  1. oh no. I am so sorry. It sounds so, so hard. And it also sounds like you were so, so brave…both in welcoming him in and drawing the visit to a close.

    Strong work, my friend.

  2. I know this post came from a deep, deep place in your heart. Kate, thank you for your honesty and your willingness to share your life with others…and with us. Part of our discussion in discipleship group this week was about how we grow in our “community” by watching what God is doing in the lives of other believers. God is using this experience not only for you and your family, but for us as well. Still praying for you! 🙂

  3. I have someone whom God lead me to end the hospitably with too, God used the story of Joseph to lead me to the place where I was able to understand that. When Joseph was in Egypt and his brothers came for food, Joseph wanted to know if they were repentant for what they had done to him. He did this by testing them with the youngest brother to see if they were willing to stand up for him when he was accused of stealing a cup. They passed the test, they were repentant and had a change of heart. God requires repentance.
    In my case, the person was not repentant after years of abuse, so I ended the relationship and felt like that is what God was telling me to do. I do believe one day our relationship will be restored.

    I think it’s a fine line between hospitality and being taken advantage of…we really need to be pray for wisdom in every situation. Sometimes God needs to bring people to a place where they only have Him, because ultimately thats really all anyone has. God brought me to that place which was a low time in my life, that ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. I know that God is there for me even when no one else is. He is a Rock in times of trouble.

  4. So, so sorry, Kate.

    What I love most about what you and Pohl have said about hospitality is that one must simply do it. It’s easy for me to be a good discuss-er of hospitality, but doing it is key. Speaking of that, Pohl’s book has been on my shelf unread since seminary…gotta open it.

  5. i’m always learning from you, kate. thanks for being so open and honest about life — the fun and easy as well as the dreary and hard. seems to me there’s another book i need to read! 🙂

  6. We know where you are coming from. Things often turn out differently than we anticipate/wish, but God is faithful in bringing about his perfect will, and we are called to be giving and obedient as He unfolds that will. I once told the Lord that, after a particularly heart-wrenching experience, that I would never be in that situation again unless He gave me a neon sign telling me to go there. A friend unexpectedly asked me directly [almost verbatim to my prayer] to be in that same circumstance with our family. Note to self: don’t challenge God. And be obedient as He leads. 🙂
    Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus…

  7. Kate – I missed this entire scenario in your life when you first posted it, but am reading it now. It’s timely for us. We’ve experienced something very very similar this entire fall. I’ve never considered the phrase “withdrawing hospitality” but I’m super glad to have that in my mind and heart now. It’s a hard, hard thing, but it’s right. Just really hard. Thanks for sharing this, even almost a year later.

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