Twenty five years ago my wife and I opened our home, Allendale Cottage, as a bed and breakfast. For ten years we had people of all races, denominations and ethnic background you can think of, sharing our home with us. There were some we enjoyed more than others, some who are friends still today. We can honestly say that during those ten years we never said “we don’t want them to ever return.” I would like to think that the hospitality we extended was a testament of our respect and dignity extended to all who entered our home then, as well as today.
Practicing the virtues of hospitality date way back, especially in the Benedictine community. My wife’s Aunt Peggy was Sister Agnes, a Benedictine Sister from Atchison, KS. The Mount is how she always referred to her home in Kansas. Atchison, KS is also home to Benedictine College.
“One of the highest values of Benedictine life is hospitality. Our patron saint, Benedict of Nursia, who lived in Italy 1500 years ago, wrote a Rule of Life for monks and nuns, and today we read two of his chapters about hospitality. One of my favorite lines of the Rule was the first we heard – “Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ.” Receive every person who comes through your door as though they were bringing Jesus to you. Receive every person you meet as though you were encountering the face of Christ.” From the sermon of : The Rev. Heidi Haverkamp, July 21st, 2013, The Feast of St. Benedict
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. – Rumi
In the poem, The Guest House, Rumi uses the metaphor of a house guest to create an image that each day we have the opportunity to welcome something new into our lives, even if it is unexpected.
And just like the house guests who can cause us to feel uncomfortable with their visit, unwelcome feelings that stop by our house, our life, can be just as exasperating.
We wait impatiently for these house guests to leave so we can put our house back just like it was before they arrived. However, underneath the irritation can live incredible value when we take the time to receive these guests with humility and courage.
Rumi’s poem is a good reminder to embrace change, face our fears and use our bodies as a guest house to welcome whatever, and whoever, drops-in on us from time-to-time:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
– Jelaluddin Rumi
This Week’s Housekeeping
Fear keeps us trapped. We shut doors and windows and refuse to let anything, or anyone, new inside. We hide in the familiar. We keep growth and personal change outside because our fear tells us that opening the door and inviting a new guest into our home is just too dangerous.
Fear doesn’t serve us when it keeps us from seeing the potential in the extraordinary. And it is in the extraordinary where our lives can explode, if we are open and grateful to whatever is standing in the doorstep and waiting to receive the invitation to come inside.
Sometimes what we fear most is not that our lives will turn out poorly, but we will actually find peace and happiness. So, we do nothing. We don’t allow happiness to walk inside because what we would have to complain about next? Somewhere behind our walls we have learned there is a false comfort with the predictable.
However, we are responsible for the content of our lives and the decisions we make. We are responsible for taking care of our guest the best way we know how.
Over the next several days, welcome the uncomfortable inside. Visit with it and learn from it. Listen to what it has to say and then take this information to do an inspection of the life you are creating.
Look for the strength in your house and the weaknesses too. Take the chance to answer the doorbell and allow every experience inside. Treat each experience humbly.
Wait on your guest, serve your guest and don’t rush your guest to leave. When the visit is over you may find your house is in better shape than it was before your guest came to visit.
After all, Life, our guest, won’t be staying long.
The BridgeMaker Founder Alex Blackwell is the author of Letting Go: 25 True Stories of Peace, Hope and Surrender. Join the community to connect, share and inspire: Twitter | Facebook | More Posts