Make Space

11 10 2009

Last weekend, Jordan and I drove to Shreveport to spend time with our families.  Somewhere in the middle of Mississippi, we grew tired of our own CD collection and instead turned on the radio for entertainment.   We happened upon some random Christian station** that was hosting an interview with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove about his newest book, God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel.  Jonathan is the director of the School for Conversion and the founder of Rutba House, a new monastic community, in Durham, N.C.

The conversation touched on several issues and Scripture passages that I have been mulling over lately.  At one point, the interviewer asked what we Christians are supposed to do with those pesky verses that tell us to take everything we have and give it to the poor; i.e. what does that look like for someone who walks down a busy urban street everyday and passes scores of homeless people, each begging for money?

(My ears perked up.  This particular question is one to which I have yet to find a satisfactory personal response.  As often as these interactions happens, I’m nonetheless always caught so off-guard that I never know exactly what to say or do.)

Jonathan responded, not by prescribing some universal protocol, but by explaining his own community’s response.  Rutba House, he said, has created space in their house for visitors who are in need of a hot meal or a place to stay.  Community members do not ignore their neighbors in need, nor do they salve their own consciences by giving out whatever leftover change happens to be in their pockets at any given moment.  Their policy requires far more work: a certain kind of openness, a radical hospitality, an investment of time (and space), and a willingness to build relationships.

Too much to ask?  At first glance, it may certainly seem that way.

But what sticks out to me most about his response is the forethought that is required: that the community has made space to allow these kinds of interactions to happen.  They prepare an extra room for their guests, make  sure they have an extra place setting at the table.  They probably allow a few extra minutes into their daily routines, just in case they meet someone new along the way.

I’m often frustrated by my failed attempts to embody “the Christian life.”  As much as I desire to embody the love of Christ, I end each day with the realization that I have a loooong way to go.  I don’t take the time to love people like I should; I don’t embrace opportunities to share my faith; I don’t give my money, time, or possessions away as freely as I should; I forget to pray, or read the Bible, or spend any kind of quality time with God; and I certainly don’t go out of my way to build relationships with people outside of my bubble.

But these things don’t just happen on their own.  I am slowly learning that I, too, must make space: in my schedule, in my home, in my mind, in my budget.  As Jordan and I prepare to move (again), we have the perfect opportunity to plan for our priorities and to be intentional about building our lives around a new kind of rhythm.

We must make space for the people and opportunities that pass us by on a daily basis.

We must make space for God.

**According to Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s website, the program was Moody Radio’s Prime Time America.  If you have a chance, listen here.