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The Heartbeat of Hospitality

I had really good pregnancies. No complications. However, I remember being able to feel weakness so keenly. I could feel my body not only making space but giving my best to the living human inside of me. When they left me, each time, I also remember feeling the opposite. Almost immediately, I could feel the nutrients and fullness come back to me.

What a foreshadowing of what giving of myself to life here in Barranquilla would feel like. The beginning… the hours and hours of time listening, feeding, and incubating with people. The joy of seeing someone smile, joke, and eyes sparkle as they become more and more like family. And then… discovering that we are also human, derived from the earth in life-giving and death-producing ways. Hurting humans. We are broken people. I begin recognizing the brokenness in myself. It is usually easy to see the same areas of brokenness in others.

Human: of the earth. Both lives originating and growing from the earth also return to and become part of it again in death. Life and death…human.

Is one of us more human than the other? What does it mean to be fully human in the best sense of the word? In the worst? These are the questions I wrestle with as I meet more humans, and find myself questioning my “human-ness” in how I continually seek my own benefits, being defensive, selfish, and looking for comfort at every turn. That feels like death. I thought I knew what it was to be the best kind of human, but then I began living in a culture that is truly exceptional in giving hospitality at every turn.

My definition of hospitality has begun to shift and slowly take on flesh.

It isn’t just a hospitality of simple courtesies. Courtesy is a beginning point in Latin culture. For an American being hospitable involves carving out around 2 hours to spend with someone and then casually mentioning another engagement thereafter. Hospitality seeps into everyone’s day here while buying tinto (coffee) from the man on the bike with carafes and little cups every morning. It’s making rounds with a beloved pet and stopping by the same person’s window every other day to see how everyone is. It is always stopping to saludar (greet) someone you know regardless of the time.

I groan…. They make it look so effortless…caring for others. I come to grips with my lack of care for people past a certain amount of time. I can care, as long as it fits into my schedule. Yuck. There it is. My humanity or lack of humanity is revealed.

I observe in awe. They can see. They can hear. They can be with the person in front of them. There is no denying it. I have so much to learn. Clearly! I’ve written about hospitality multiple times in my blog.

Hospitality is open space. Making myself empty, and being used for the good of the person in front of me. Sound familiar? Sound like Jesus? Here, I am getting a Master's Class. Be prepared to spend all day with someone. Make space to accompany someone to run errands. When someone is upset because their family member is in a bind, sit with them and talk about it. If the opportunity arises, go with them. Sit with them as they await news.

Little by little I open up space. Purposefully I don’t schedule our entire day because I know that would not honor people that come and are looking for hospitality. During my week, and in my days, it looks like not hoarding time. I rest when it is time to rest. But it can also be restful to be with people, loving them and feeling them love us back.

Like most of my journey here I realize my definitions are all out of whack. Rest doesn’t always mean solitude. Sometimes rest comes to me in the gift of a person. Making room.

All of these spaces are exactly that… spaces of time. I cannot be hospitable without giving of what is most precious and valued to me: TIME.

There are other spaces of hospitality. Space in my heart. Aching chest. Expanding heart, growing chest pains. As I open my heart, I become more and more aware I am saying yes to it all. The joy and excitement of loving anew; heart-making space. The devastating feeling of being taken advantage of, lied to, or just let down; heart throbbing, stinging with fresh wounds.

Is this the life you lived, Jesus?

This journey of following Christ involves being vulnerable. As my heart expands and invites, I risk. Lest I not forget God risked it all, and counted the cost of sending his son. It wasn’t a risk, it was a choice knowing what would happen. Even knowing what humanity would choose: death. Crucify! The Father still sent his only Son. Suddenly my risk/ my choice of opening space and inviting others in regardless doesn’t seem so different. I will be let down. I will be hurt. Is this what it means to be crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20)?

Also, I have never known love like this before. I cannot keep it to myself. I propel forward. They are also taking the chance with me. This person I am loving and caring for is also making themselves vulnerable in all the same ways. I will and do get hurt, disappointed… heartbroken. It is no different than my relationship with my husband, my girls, and my closest friends. We disappoint. If I don’t keep that thought present with me at all times, I am tempted to run away from this radical hospitality.

This heart of hospitality that beats loudly all around me, is changing me. I feel the beat of it in my life, and I hear it in the people extending their hands to me and inviting me into their joys and into their suffering. To be fully human I say “yes” to it all. The fullness of Christ guides me, empties me of self, and fills me with Him. I pour out what He fills me with. I receive what He pours into me through others. I say “yes, let’s make room”.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

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