This post is part of a series called The Cure of Souls: A Spirituality of Care and Compassion written by Kate Wiebe. Look for her posts twice a month, and a list of them here.
In my last post, I discussed the topic of home being a place rather than a station for coming and going. Having a home is an important element of care. Of course, home is where your heart is. And, for some people, that means the people they are with. For some people, it’s the brick and mortar structure. Ideally, whether it’s because of people or aesthetics, home is a place of refreshment.
Recently, a dear friend, a monastery brother, described retreats to me. In so doing, he wrote about the “sacred places” of the location, “where God has a history of showing up palpably and powerfully.”
“These are thin places,” he discloses. Notably, “They aren’t holy because of us brothers. We, too, are God’s guests. Because of our particular brokenness and path of conversion, we need the healing gifts here not just for a few days but for years or a lifetime.”
As I read those words, I felt my soul leap forward. Because of my particular brokenness and path of conversion, I need the healing gifts of sacred spaces not just for a few days but for years or a lifetime. I need that kind of ongoing communion and refreshment. Can it be found beyond a monastery, too, and beyond the poles of busyness and retreat?
My soul cautioned, hesitated . . . there was more in what my friend wrote. He and his brothers are God’s guests in their own home.
Wow. There’s something topsy-turvy about that sentiment, in a good way. It breaks the reader, me, from self-focus and possession – of senses of mine or woe-is-me-ness. It forces me to wonder, how does God host me and any us-es at any given time in my/our own home? And, is it a place where we meet continually? How are we creating this space, this home, to be one in which we feel ourselves to be God’s guests here?
As I continue to explore this notion, I find myself aware of daily practices in my home, and how they may be places of meeting – and even places of emptiness, or lack of practice. Must I do anything to have God host me? It seems like not, on one hand. That God is God of space and time, of showing up and shepherding. Yet, on the other hand, I have some response-ability in acknowledging the hosting – that by acknowledging God’s hosting in some way, I get to participate more fully in intimate, caring meeting. Otherwise, the hosting goes on, but I am not transformed by it.
Beyond the kitchen, of course, a place is about the practices in other rooms as well. For example, greeting the morning and the first people you meet, whether they are in your home or outside of it. Being intentional about starting (and ending) well can impact our senses of well-being tremendously. Carrying on this theme of God’s hosting in the home, welcoming the day may include a practice that acknowledges being hosted in some way.
Author C. S. Lewis is famous for saying:
“That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
“We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, ‘Be perfect,’ He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” (Mere Christianity)
When you are not accustomed to making home a place of practices, it can feel somewhat trite to start. Actually deciding to do something, resolving to do something small each day, perhaps with how you greet the day in the morning can feel even silly. But when you do it, over several days, it becomes something. It takes on shape, meaning, and value. It becomes part of the sense of place.
Some people use this time for prayer or meditation. Others, for exercise. Some people use this time to study Scripture or journal. Some people decide that it is a time, not to talk or think, but for some kind of expression – perhaps to give companions in the home a warm, long hug to start the day, or a good morning kiss. Some stand in front of the rising sun or a view of the backyard garden, slowly breathing in the new day. This welcoming gesture, whatever it is, can last for only a minute or two, or as much as an hour. No matter it’s time, as it happens, over and over, it becomes a part of the sense of home, of what I/we do here in this place. It becomes a part of acknowledging God’s hosting of me/us in this place of home.