The Red Couch: Making Room Introduction

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red couch -making room- introduction

We came back from living in the Middle East with countless stories of the kindness of strangers, many stretching themselves beyond their means to care for us. Like the time we insisted we didn’t need sodas, knowing we’d be the only ones drinking them as the family drank hot tea instead, the luxury of a Coca-Cola reserved for esteemed guests. Our host was a bawab by trade, a doorman, basically the servant of the apartment dwellers above his one-room basement home.

I longed to be that kind of person—one who welcomes the outsider—but I’d often only met them on my own terms. We have served in the refugee community in our hometown, but have kept that part of our lives relegated to Saturdays spent in a community center, not opening our own doors.

I’ve fumbled and failed at my attempts at hospitality, so I’ve often written off the practice as one of those gifts I don’t have.

It was with these thoughts of needing to grow in hospitality that I approached Christine Pohl’s Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition and realized how much more room I had to grow than I thought. The whole book is based on the premise that hospitality has always been a part of the Christian tradition and we have lost the moral dimension and imperative to practice hospitality as a way of life, hence the need to recover the tradition. My view of hospitality as “a tame and pleasant practice” was challenged as she expanded on the “subversive, countercultural dimension” of hospitality.

As someone who is again moving to a part of the world where the culture is known for friendliness and hospitality (but not Christianity), I feel like a learner of something I should have known all along. Pohl talks about the roots of hospitality as being a part of the very identity of the people of ancient Israel “understanding themselves as strangers and sojourners, with responsibility to care for vulnerable strangers in their midst,” making caring for the outsider “part of what it meant to be the people of God.” I realize how far we’ve fallen in our exclusivity to whom we open our doors to. How far we’ve fallen in our divisions.

Weighty and convicting, Making Room isn’t always the easiest read (should we really need to be convinced that the Body of Christ is meant to be a welcoming community?) But where it challenges, it also gives practical implications of living out an identity of welcome that is at the heart of the gospel.

I expected a lot of the focus of hospitality to be on those in the margins, but what I didn’t expect was the challenge of moving past serving people to being present with people. So much of our modern ideas of care have to do with charity and physical assistance, like our service in the local refugee community. Those are vital parts of showing love but where Pohl’s words struck my heart was her assertions that we too often stop there, instead of moving into “gracious relationships of encouragement and respect.” We like to stay in helping roles that keep people in need at arm’s length, while Pohl encourages us to instead share what we have in the way of time and resources and share their burdens, even when we cannot solve their problems.

How can we find ways to be present and deliberate in a way that integrates respect and care? How can we become individuals and communities who are known for our love and welcome? I don’t think there are more vital questions right now for those of us who want to be known as women who love.

Making Room offers a step towards answering those questions, so let’s dive deep this month. I look forward to hearing what moves you as I continue to contemplate how far I have to go in the slow, faithful work of caring for others.

What is your experience in everyday hospitality? Will you be joining us as we read Making Room?

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Nicole T Walters
I love to experience and to write about this messy, noisy, beautiful world and cultures not my own. Though my family’s roots run deep in the soil of the Southern United States I, along with my husband and our two little ones, am learning to love hot milk tea instead of sweet iced tea as we make our home in South Asia. I hope to help others create space to hear God’s voice in all the noise of life as I write about faith from a global perspective at A Voice in the Noise {nicoleTwalters.com}. I have authored essays in several books and my writing has appeared in places live CT Women, Relevant, and Ruminate. I am a regular contributor at here at SheLove, The Mudroom, and READY Publication and am a member of the Redbud Writers Guild.
Nicole T Walters
Nicole T Walters

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Nicole T Walters
  • “Should we really need to be convinced that the Body of Christ is a welcoming community?” This is where I grapple with hospitality. It is big — bigger than my energy and resources…. But, it is part of being a body, interconnected. Thank you for leading us though this layered book, Nicole!

    • Yes, it feels too big! I know that is probably because so few of us practice it well and so those who do wear out of stand alone. I want to be one who links up with others and works together for this. A long way to go!

  • Sandy Hay

    This is perfect timing for my bible study tonight. We reflect on spiritual practices with each chapter and tonight’s practice is hospitality. I’ll read bit of Nicole post to helps along 🙂

    • I love this, Sandy! You’ll have to let us know how the discussion goes. 🙂

    • Awesome that you are discussing this! For so long I never thought of it as a spiritual practice. So glad to see it now!

  • Deborah Beddoe

    I’m so excited you’re leading a discussion of Making Room. I picked it up a couple of years ago because I was so discouraged about our general American Church perception of hospitality and weary of “entertaining” being the center of the discussion. I also felt shame (as a pastor’s wife) about my hesitation to welcome strangers into my home — due to some hangups from my missionary kid childhood. I found so much freedom along with the challenge in this book. My transformation has been slow, but steady and I now have no hesitation welcoming people in. ( It helps that my kids are past the vulnerable age.) But the book also really challenged me to go to the spaces in my community that are safe and practice hospitality. For six months this past year, I spent every Tuesday afternoon welcoming strangers to our community food bank and connecting them with resources and food. I never considered that sort of service “hospitality” until I read this book.

    • I’m so glad you’re joining our conversation! My assumption is that hospitality means opening your home in some way – whether through a meal or a bed – and I find it so liberating that hospitality is a much bigger word.