The Intimacy of Need

Painting by Dave Coleman

Painting by Dave Coleman

It is late and I am tired. My girls are snuggled into the carpet of an old college friend eating popcorn and watching Angeline Ballerina. Did I mention I am tired. I am so, so tired. My husband is writing his dissertation in Atlanta, and I am on my last leg of a road trip with our two girls. For all intents and purposes I should not have left the house. 

We are still living in a state of Radical Uncertainty. Despite the ultimatum I gave God, it is past July 1st and we still have no definitive plans for August, just a vague sense that everything will work out and I shouldn’t put the house on the market quite yet. This has mostly meant that I have had to depend on the kindness of my friends. 

This sounds great and wonderful in theory. In practice, it has been humbling. If I want to go anywhere with my friends this summer, they have to treat. We have no space for extras. While it isn’t a big deal for them to pick up a movie (we aren’t really fancy people) it has been so hard for me to ask. To admit that I need to be the receiver, to say: I am really sorry but I can’t help. I am used to helping. I am used to being the one who tells the other person it isn’t a big deal.

I have been remarkably blessed this season in my life. When I finally told one of my friends why I hadn’t been able to go to lunch with her she rolled her eyes. She told me that not being able to pay for my burger was a stupid reason to not go to lunch. She picked up the tab and texts me plans with, my treat at the end so I don’t have to worry. I return the favor by inviting her to grill hotdogs at my house. She tells me it is perfect. When I went on a camping trip with the women in my church, they all lined up to give the organizer the ten dollars apparently everyone owed. I had no idea about it because everyone decided I wasn’t paying. I can pay my share when we know where the paychecks are coming from. I was, and am so grateful. Still, it is hard to be the receiver of good gifts. 

Receiving good gifts means I have to admit that I need something, I want something, something that I have no way of getting for myself. I would have told you 6 months ago that I am really, really good at hospitality. Now, I would tell you I am very good at giving hospitality, that I am only just now learning how to receive it. 

I have been thinking a lot about the ways that Jesus practiced hospitality. It was pointed out to me last summer that Jesus almost always is the recipient. The gospels are full of stories of Jesus eating, drinking, and sleeping at houses that are not his own. I have been doing that for two weeks, and can I just tell you how exhausting it is? 

I have found that receiving hospitality can really only happen with an open heart if you are sure you are loved by God. If I am operating from a place where I am trying to earn something, trying to prove something, trying to impress someone, it is nearly impossible for me to really be with anyone who is trying to bless me. It is practically impossible for me to tell anyone what I really need from them. 

But when I am sure I am loved, deeply and truly loved, I am able to receive the gifts that my friends want to give me. I can tell my mom, my sister, my friend from college (whoever I am crashing with for the moment) what I really need from them. I am sure that I am loved, so my worth isn’t based on how well my girls behave at dinner (Thank the LORD). Asking for, and receiving what I need has been a deeply meaningful part of this season. Accepting hospitality has created true intimacy within my friendships. 

Abby Norman

Abby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She swears a lot more than you would think for a public school teacher and mother of two under three. She can’t help that she loves all words.She believes in champagne for celebrating every day life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then.

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