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