This Lent has been interesting to say the least. It has been very undoing, which is good, but very uncomfortable. It also has been lots of re-framing thoughts and actions, transforming of my heart and mind. It has been an eye opener, as well as a reminder of the deeper things I have been learning over the past years. One of the resources I have been using to help me focus is Tamara Hill Murphy | A Sacramental Life Blog. She is doing a Lenten series that has been very different, and given me much to ponder, alongside the Common Book Liturgical Side, which I appreciate.
Week three of Lent she put forth the following fasting/feasting challenge: “Fast preconceived notions (judgments). Feast on a hospitable imagination instead.” https://www.tamarahillmurphy.com/blogthissacramentallife/4prll839lgz543p388gka7zgzj7gze The phrase hospitable imagination caught my attention. She continues to expound and challenge the reader to: “Make space for divergent opinions, Make space for meaning, Make space for listening, Make space for conversation, Make space for reading outside your tradition, Make space for curiosity, and Make space for pausing.”
Hospitable imagination…. how easy it can be to let our imaginations, or I should say, how easy it is for me to let my imagination run away with why that person might have said, or acted a certain way. I have written before about choosing to assume the best or that there is more to the person’s story, but I feel like hospitable imagination takes it a step further. It is making space for whatever may be happening in that person’s life, or making space for that situation to show itself, instead of rushing in. It makes a space in my mind and heart for the person to share what is really going on, or just to be present if they do not.
Fasting from preconceived notions, or quick judgments… “being quick to listen and slow to speak, slow to become angry” is hospitable and generous. It allows space for the person to work it out, to receive grace and mercy whether they “deserve it or not.” They might not even know they are receiving it because we have not jumped in with the answers, or the corrections, or defense.
Hospitable imagination is freeing in that I do not have to figure it out. It leaves room to think the best about the person, and allow God to fill in the gaps in that person’s weaknesses. It helps me to think that person may just not know how to do this situation differently. It gives me space to pray and have compassion for the person or situation because I am making space. Hospitality is about making time and space in our hearts, minds, and schedules. When there is an agenda attached, it turns into something less than hospitable.
Expectations separate us instead of allowing space to hear the other person’s heart. I think of how many times I run ahead in the narrative, and I might be right, but when I truly listen, and listen for what the person is really saying, or what their actions are really saying, I begin to hear a deeper conversation of identity and heartache, or desires and needs. I am more able to hear the pulse of the Spirit’s heartbeat, and hear what I am being invited into, instead of trying to make something happen, or teach the lesson.
This Lent I feel like the Holy Spirit has shut my mouth many times, thankfully, and allowed me to see where I was getting it wrong because I was able to see more and hear more by having a hospitable imagination, thinking the best, covering the wrongs with love. I have also seen where I have failed multiple times, and missed opportunities because I came barreling in with truth because I love the person, but not speaking truth in love. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13 and how without love I am nothing, and my actions are nothing no matter how great or spiritual they look without love.
I look at the description of love and see a higher level of hospitality. I see a need to have a hospitable imagination to do this, not a foolish, naïve imagination, but a Holy Spirit empowered, gracious one. Hospitality is a platform for love to flow. The kind of love that is a generous hospitality is described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
It is easy to think of this as relationship goals with just a few intimate people, but really this message was to a whole church. This was encouragement to a church that was big on actions, but low on love for one another. What would happen if we thought the best of a person, and when we saw the worst in that person we prayed for God’s best to take root? What if we loved, and offered space for the person to grow into that?
What if we were quicker to listen and have a hospitable imagination, “believing the best in love”? What would our interactions look like? What would our hearts and minds look like? I know for me, it is helping me de-clutter my heart and mind. It is still challenging, and I am still very clumsy in this, but it is freeing me up to be present with the hope for the future because this is God’s deal and His story that He is writing in my life, and the other person’s. I have the opportunity to stop and allow that person a safe place to land and work it out with Him even if they do not know Him yet, I can love them with a generous gracious hospitable love that only comes from above.