I once went to a seminar on practicing the Sabbath as an academic. The seminar (more of a panel discussion) was mostly encouraging and a little convicting. But one piece of advice made my introverted skin crawl: You should be inviting people over to your home every Sunday because the Sabbath is for Community. Your home needs to have open doors on the Sabbath.
No, I thought. If I’m truly going to rest, I want absolute peace. No trips to the grocery store, no cleaning, and certainly no visiting. I want a Sabbath where I read in my office all afternoon and occasionally venture out to sit on the porch swing or drink some tea. I’d like to spend my Sabbath in the solitude and comfort of my home. No interruptions, thank you very much.
But then two years ago we started hosting a home group on Sunday nights, and my Sabbath suddenly included visiting (a lot of visiting). It also included cooking for a large number of hungry people, mostly undergraduate boys. Our Sunday evenings were/are spent in community, and over time it began to feel natural and comfortable to spend my precious peace-day with others, at least for a few hours in the evening.
I think there’s a secret more introverts need to hear: You don’t have to be the life of the party to show hospitality. You just have to make sweet, warm space for the community to spend some time in. No need to work on your “hostess presence.” Just make sure there is plenty of food and make sure you get a good spot on the couch for listening.
My word, icon, and meditation for this fall is “hospitality.” In the next few months, we’ll be hosting events for church and for school that would normally put me on the edge of a nervous breakdown. But I’m not nervous this time around. Our beautiful, big house has laid fallow for too long: not enough visitors, not enough neighbor-greeting, and not enough flowers on the front porch. Pemberley needs to awaken.
So I’m preparing all the rooms, sprucing up the entryway, and dusting all the overlooked places. I realized that, on this blog, I was never very hospitable with pictures of the inside of Pemberley. Some of that is because things got busy, flurried. (I let this little online space stay silent for over a year to calm down all that flurry–I even changed the name for a fresh start.) But I also didn’t show images of the inside of our home because (I think) I wasn’t truly ready to welcome anyone in. I wanted to wait until the rooms were just right, when the camera was programmed correctly, and the lighting was perfect. I wasn’t ready to be hospitable because I wasn’t ready to show you our rooms with the bleary, grainy vision of a cellphone camera as opposed to a fancy Nikon. Well, I’m ready now. These are imperfect pictures of imperfect Pemberley’s hospitable spaces.
Come and stay for a while, friends.
“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.” –Henri Nouwen