Living in Africa has taught me a lot about hospitality.
I’m an introvert – and not the social “I like being around people but then I need my alone time” kind of introvert. I like to be around certain people, but not people in general. Getting to know people can be so tedious that I often don’t invest in finding out whether I like new people.
Thus, inviting people into my home has never come naturally to me, or even supernaturally, as is the case in spiritual giftedness.
My husband is my complete opposite. Plus, he’s from a very social culture. Receiving guests in your home is the highest honor; everyone loves to have people over. It doesn’t even matter who is coming. I realized that my reluctance to have guests put a damper on his personality and culture.
We had to work out a system to invite people over without overwhelming me. We choose a date and a number of guests. There will be a meal or coffee and snacks, the guests go home, and I take a nap. It only took a couple of occasions before I began to love having people over, too.
In talking about her father’s friendliness in chapter 11 of Glorious Weakness Alia Joy said, “A meal shared meant an open invitation to belong to each other.”
It’s amazing what happens when you sit around a table together. People who have barely said anything more than a greeting to each other find themselves engaged in deep, connecting conversations. My introvert heart has no space for endless small talk, but longs for this kind of thing.
In the Velvet Ashes community, our table is virtual. The feast is set by us and for us, as we share with each other here on the blog and across social media. We’ve probably all had our “I’m not the only one” moments, and likely they don’t come when we read about others’ triumphs (though we do rejoice with each other!). These moments come as someone shares a weakness, a struggle, a hardship, and we can say, “Been there,” or, “I’m there with you right now.”
Alia Joy says, “Our honesty is an invitation. Our weakness makes space.” And: “In telling our stories we don’t just relate to each other; we belong to each other.” Community is formed, fellowship happens, and relationships are deepened when we can share with each other, and instead of trying to solve everyone’s problems, we admit that we also have problems.
I have no real experience with mental illness, but I resonate so deeply with much of Alia Joy’s experiences. She started the book by saying that it’s not for everyone, and there were many times I thought maybe it’s not for me, but in the end, I think it is for everyone. We are weak, and that’s how we should be.
She ends with a note of hope, and it’s not a sappy one. As we share our stories with each other, from our suffering, vulnerability, and weakness, we also “bear witness to the goodness of God in the most unlikely places.” This is why we need each other. And this is why we need to tell our stories.
What are your thoughts as we close this book? Is it what you were expecting? What is sticking with you?
December is going to be fun! We will be reading holiday short stories and talking about our favorite books of 2019. Next week, we’ll be reading a sweet short story: An Old-fashioned Thanksgiving Story by Louisa May Alcott, available to read online free at the link.