I love to create, but I never really know what to create when I have to. I am a creature of inspiration; something needs to spark my imagination. But I can rely on “inspiration” too much and use “creativity” as method of avoidance. One who is hones a skill practices dedication and discipline. Inspiration and creativity occur within this discipline, but they follow a deep commitment to be a certain way.
Our desire for community is a similar discipline. Many of us love to be social and want to have intimacy with those around us. However, for most, we don’t really know how to start. We are unsure about the new person in our midst, fear revealing the darker sides of our selves, or haven’t really felt loved.
In preparing for my third year as a Resident Director at Westmont College, I have taken a good deal of time focusing on what is means to cultivate a hospitable community. Hospitality is not just being nice, putting on events, or even conversations over coffee. Hospitality can happen within this things but they themselves are merely a vessel. Hospitality is an affirming welcome to one another as we are, which, through relationship, transforms individuals and communities into more of who we were created to be – image-bearers of God. When we consider God’s work in humanity, this is what He has done. God loves us, as is. We don’t need to be better to receive God’s love. God welcomes us in, He is the father who runs out to meet us when we have veered away and opens his heart of joy to those who have become lost in the deception of just doing the right things. This loving welcome, ultimately through Christ, redeems us broadly from sin, but perhaps particularly from our own pretenses about our worth. This loving welcome sets us on a path of reconciliation with God and those around us. Hospitality allows us to commune with one another and reminds us that we are beloved.
But hospitality takes effort; it took (takes) God’s pursuit of us and the giving of his son. In the same way, if we want community we must make the effort; we can’t wait to be inspired. We have to break through the fear of the other, the fear of vulnerability. We have to set our own desires aside for one another. We have to know one another and love. We have to be with one another. We have to welcome God into our lives, welcome others into our relationships, and welcome ourselves in a way that is honest. Beyond activities, busyness, and programs, hospitality is a way of being and it is hospitality that transforms us.