solitude and hospitality

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‘In our home, hospitality meant a door that was open to everyone and a welcome from me. But it also aroused a certain ambivalence. I needed to be nurturing, but I needed solitude as well. The balance was difficult to find as more people felt comfortable about accepting my breezy (and foolhardy) invitations to “drop in”.

How could I have some private time? I was reading a book by Henri Nouwen when I began to find an answer. True hospitality, he says, grows out of solitude. One is rooted in the other. In solitude we can pay attention to our personal and spiritual well-being. Then we are able to reach out to others — not greedy for attention or affection — but offering ourselves to build a community of love.

I had to choose where the open-door policy began and ended. I know now that when the balance shifts too much to the “open house” side, I begin to feel sick: too much coffee, too much sitting, too much being still, and I start to fidget and wish that the visitor would leave. But when the balance falls too far in the other direction, I begin to feel isolated and empty — hungry both to care and be cared for.

The broadening and deepening that was going on as I struggled to balance these conflicting demands has been valuable for our marriage as well for for me.’

— Donna Sinclair (2000), Couples’ Devotional Bible, p.1073

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