Picture the scene if you will. Your visitor is due in half an hour. You are frantically clearing the dining table of bits of paper which have been put there to wait for a convenient time for you to file, shred or recycle them. The kitchen needs a clear up from last night’s meal, and the cat has beaten her personal best for the amount of cat litter scattered around the room from the litter tray.
It’s a scene which I’m sure is repeated time and time again, but I wonder if we ever stop to think why we are OK to live with one standard of tidiness but would be embarrassed if others saw it.
Henri Nouwen says that “hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out). So of course we would want to tidy up to create this ‘free space’ so that visitors, strangers and friends alike, will feel valued and welcome in our homes.
But why don’t we tidy up for ourselves? It is important in our fast-paced lives to offer ourselves the kind of hospitality we would afford to others. This means valuing ourselves to the extent that we value others, and offering ourselves the same depth of hospitality – a place of peace where we can become a friend to ourselves.