To the summer night with beloved friends that inspired our hearts,
Germeen, George, Amanowil, Mark and Mina, thank you for this night.
Sometimes we think that we are in need of a perfect home with everything neatly in place to show hospitality. And sometimes we think we need a perfect heart that has it all together to invite someone in and build that home. But there are homes we build with our friends not with hands but with conversations of openness and honesty, with the comfort to be as we are, who we are, where we are now. With all our sins and struggles and all our questions and doubts. Sharing death and grief, sex and desire, our needs, deepest inadequacies and regrets. We uncover the demolition in our hearts, unafraid of displaying the rubble, unafraid of leaving the keys to the doors we’ve always locked for someone else to walk in. In the face of each other’s rubble, there is no space for judgement, only the realisation that we all stand on the same levelled ground, a holy ground, where our pain and our struggles are communally felt, without measure, without degrees. Hospitality is the fearlessness to offer others a key into your warzone, and the fearlessness to choose to be present with another.
Many of us were raised strictly associating spiritual growth with the attendance of bible studies, worship evenings, quiet time and locking our bedroom doors in prayer. But there is spiritual growth at 2am at the back of a pickup truck, with seven hearts drawn in laughter and in love. There is growth in 6am swims through the river and in sharing water shoes when the rocks become too harsh beneath your feet. There is growth in conversations over eggs benedict and in sharing the words of people who have previously hurt and condemned us, and the relationships that have left us feeling less than who we were. There is growth in reconnecting with old friends and learning the hearts of new ones, because where there are people, there is God, and that is where we grow and self discover. There is growth in the daily victory of waking up and trying, trying, and trying again. There is growth in struggling through loss to believe that God is good, and there is also growth in firmly believing through the tragedy that God is good.
When we let God out of the man-made spiritual boxes we have created, we need not look far or deep or wide to see His face, but to the heart next to us to realise that He is here. For long we have found Him in foreign mission fields and in retreats, yet now we are awakened to find Him in His people, the church, the home that is built without hands.
After years of living under the weight of expectations and who we “should” be, many of us have locked so many doors of our hearts away for the fear of being known, for fear of being perceived as not spiritual, as not a man or woman of God. When we have tasted the condemnation of a community, that labels and silences us, our fears can only be rational and our walk becomes heavy. We were never called to pretend a false state of perfection. We were created in the image of Community for community. A community that is real, that moves from individualism to a place where we can reach out and ask why we’re created in a fallen world or why it’s so hard to hear God’s voice sometimes.
We all naturally gravitate to the community that will accept us for all we bring to the table, so we find ourselves projecting the finished product of ourselves that we believe our community desires so that we can find our home. All the while we live with the fear of truly being known and found out. We live in fear that one day someone will tear down the door to our demolition and see the truth; to see our addictions and the tears that keep us up at night. But Christ was always interested in the real authentic version of ourselves. Christ was never interested in the finished product more than he was in our journey to wholeness. And community was only ever meant to be a place without fear. A place where all we ask is to see with loving eyes, instead of with defense or judgment, the person before us. All of the wonder, grace and godliness lying in the demolition that is yet to be restored. We hope in the yet to come but we love and live the now of each other – no matter how much is taken apart. Hospitality is loving without the need to put it all back together. And hospitality never demands an invite. It waits, it loves, it is patient.
To our friends on that August summer night, we are eternally grateful for your stories.
“Maybe we’re all just shiny balls of light inside human machines.
Maybe we’re all trying desperately to convince others that the noise they hear coming out of our mouths is an accurate reflection of the intentions of the shiny ball of light inside the machine.
Maybe it screams,
“I am real in here, I am real in here, I am real here.”
Maybe the light inside me just wants to know, if you’re real too.”
Co-written with Makrina