Matthew 25 tells a parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. In the tale all ten of them are waiting for the bridegroom to turn up. It seems that this bridegroom doesn’t come at the time expected. In fact he is very late. Five of them had come without anything extra just in case and others had come with more oil just in case. When he did finally arrive the ones who had only got enough oil had run out but the others had enough left, though were reluctant to share. What struck me today was that all ten had come prepared but some were more prepared than others.
I am just starting a new project with my church and have been pondering it and how it will fit in with the other things that I do and want to do. How often do I take just enough because I am hoping it will be over quickly, or that I can get someone else to carry it for a while?
Last weekend I had a fun trip up to London to catch up with an old friend, see Moominland and see my daughter. Even though it was great fun it was still a very long day. Then on the Sunday I went to help out on Gwrych Castle open day, which again was enormous fun but tiring. Then in the week I had a meeting, a workshop every evening and every day, and a couple of other things going on. A very full diary. This weekend thankfully it has been calm and quiet, and last night husband was away and I had no guests staying. I am almost recovering. When I was in my 20s and 30s I could have breezed through this, but now it has taken a whole week to recover and I still feel a bit exhausted. I had enough but nothing left over.
I often wonder if not just church but the world helps us with this. Youth and the energy of youth is worshipped almost and the wisdom of the grey hairs not so much. But where are the teachings about slowing down, about knowing when your oil is running out. In fact in churches I’ve been to there has been much preached on making sure you always have that extra oil. Yes I totally understand that, but I need to know what I now need to cut out so that I have oil left over.
I do think this is as much about knowing your limitation as about making sure you have something in reserve. I wonder what the reasoning was with the five virgins who didn’t bring spare oil to wait? Maybe they’d given it to someone who didn’t have any? Had helped out a neighbour? Been somewhere else beforehand whilst the “wise” had been sitting and waiting? Maybe the “wise” had just come straight from the oil seller and so were able to carry some spare? Maybe the “foolish” had back problems? Didn’t have spare money?
I often push myself harder than I should because of concerns about money, about a job needing to be done, about helping and supporting other people, lots of other reasons. Take last weekend – why was I so busy? Because I wanted to see my friend and Moominland, and then was asked to help at a place I have fallen in love with and want to support. The things I do I do because they are things I love, ways I want to help and support others, things I get asked to do. All valid reasons.
So are we too harsh on the “foolish” virgins? Maybe we need to all be aware that too often we get swept into the role of helping, supporting, being there for others and just get too busy. Perhaps we need to pray more and do less?
“Come as you are not as you should be,
don’t cover up those scars,
their your glory, their your story,
their Your Beauty…”
These are such powerful lines and yet we got talking about them on the way back from the last time we saw Josh Luke Smith perform this and some interesting things came from our chatting.
It is fine for me to come as I am with my woundings and hurts, my bits where I say and do the wrong thing, etc but what about others? How willing am I to have people who are hard work, mess my life up, over step my boundaries about? What about the couple we had last year staying in our house who wrote the awful review? Are we happy that they come as they are? Ok so we learned from them but actually we’d have preferred them to come a bit more sorted? What about the person who cuts us up when driving? Who abuses a child? Who like Karen from The Moorside was broken and lied? How happy are we for people to come as they are?
I think it depends often on our relationship with them. Ok as Christians there is this thing that we should love everyone as God loves them, but we don’t. I can forgive my children anything because I love them fiercely and still have that mother-tiger protective care element. I can forgive my husband most things because I have chosen to like and love him and forgiving him is my gift I can give him. Many of my friends I can forgive if they are snappy, hurtful, do stuff I’m not sure I like, but that’s because there is some bond between us that makes us friends. For me to not allow them that space to come as they are means I have to break that bond of friendship. There have been people that were my friends that I have had to do that to, who’s “coming as they are” has been more than I could cope with and for my own emotional well-being I have had to make a space between me and them. Does that mean they should change? Not necessarily.
We all put on different faces and show different sides of ourselves when we meet. This isn’t hiding and being something we’re not but this is knowing that we do need to behave differently with different people. When we have people staying here who are similar ages to my children we don’t speak to them as we would Ben and Tabitha. We speak to them differently. Every man who comes through our house I do not behave with in the same way I would behave with my husband. In fact last weekend we had 3 different sets of people to lunch and each meal was different. We acted differently and I suspect the people who came acted in a different way too. This isn’t them “covering up their scars” but is them being true to themselves in the situation they are in.
I think we do need to be willing to accept our scars as much as we accept other people’s. A bit like the love your neighbour as yourself and you have to love yourself first. So we need to be able to know we have scars, reveal them wisely, don’t be as we think we should be – because often that means we are false to ourselves anyway and people can feel something is not right and avoid us anyway.
I think we are to be true but be wise. Not everyone wants the raw version of us. We often don’t need to see the raw version of ourselves. But also we must not go around pretending to be something we are not. My crazy story is what has made me me. As I told someone today I’ve made some crazy decisions and have survived. I must say that it is surviving those crazy decisions that has made me – with my scars, my story and my glory 🙂
Well there were repercussions from the Airbnb guests that I mentioned in my last post. They wrote a very damming review about their stay. Needless to say it really upset me. I think I was still feeling vulnerable from their time with us anyway. What upset me most about the review was that most of what they said was not true. Anyway I got on to the Airbnb community forum. Well what an amazing bunch of people. No one made me feel daft for having let them stay and everyone who responded to my post was helpful. Airbnb said that unfortunately they could not take the review down because it didn’t quite break their guidelines. But with the help of the online community from around the world I was able to put up a succinct response to the review which actually, so the community said, took the sting out of the review and gave me the higher ground. And also helped others to see that here was someone just ranting. But it took me a while to potter through all this and come out feeling ok.
Being a well-being writer I of course did my own journaling and explored my thoughts and feelings about what had happened via writing. I realised that I got upset because it was not true and I did not like someone saying things that were untrue. As always timing is amazing and I was meeting with my spiritual director and so I told him all this. His response was that we all feel like that, which I sort of know to be true, and that it was ok.
On Monday I was facilitating a writing for well-being group and it came up about the glass half full/glass half empty explanation for pessimist and optimist, when someone said that in an Eastern philosophy (sorry I forget where) they talk about emptying yourself so that you can be filled. So with that thought an optimist would be someone who was happy to be a glass totally empty. But then I thought Jesus talks of us being like streams of living water and of how we need to be constantly emptying ourselves so He can fill us. Very similar philosophy. I can hold on to my half full glass and oscillate, as most of us do, between feeling like glass is half empty or half full. Or I can go to that total place of letting go where I am happy to give away everything in my glass and wait for the Holy Spirit to fill it.
As I’ve had time to chew this over I have realised that I had to look at the guests from the weekend as ones who did drain me and leave me empty but that then I had a choice what I filled up with. I could have filled up with fear and not ever hosted anyone again unless they were people we knew. I could have filled up with anger and responded from that place both on the response to the review and in a message to the man himself. I could have filled up with hopelessness and just sat and cried. Instead I chose to fill up with forgiveness for the man for being so defensive and so angry, with hope that actually the world is full of some really lovely people who I want to met and I will carry on host and a joy about the world.
Mind you this does not come about by being on my own. The Airbnb Community Forum helped as did various open and honest posts on Facebook from my daughter, from a friend whose total openness about his struggle with his sexuality was amazing, but not just that but the love with which his friends responded. As well as friends I have who are willing to let me be myself and my spiritual director, and my time being able to walk with my dog and think and ponder with God. And also we have just had two Airbnb guests who’ve stayed who have been totally lovely and have reminded me why we do this. So it is by community that we survive and can choose.
So I have to sometimes empty myself and let those who support me, whether I know they are or not, fill me with hope and wisdom and peace. And I do often think when this happens that the Kingdom of God is bigger than just those who profess to be Christians 🙂
Oh I am so rubbish at setting boundaries. I find it so difficult. Maybe I wasn’t taught well as a child? Maybe very few of us get taught how to do it? Anyway it seems that this is the journey I am on at the moment – learning how to set boundaries calmly and firmly without losing it!
This weekend we’ve had those guests staying that really do need boundarying in. This has been a tough weekend. And today I have had to charge them for staining a mattress. And also when I did challenge them he actually, I felt, was quite passive aggressive toward me. Oh man I found it so hard not to be passive aggressive myself back again and not to say “it’s fine” when they offered to pay for the mattress. So yes I did manage to charge them for at least my cleaning time and didn’t lose my temper. But now I am shaking like a leaf and want to cry. I know its silly. Like this is my house, my business, my life, and I have got myself in a pickle being firm to people in my house. But it was so hard.
Mind you I can think of loads of places where I give in and go with people and then try to put my boundaries in later and really screw up and do the whole passive aggressive bit, or even really shout. Actually it isn’t so much their fault, though I may have felt my boundaries have been violated, but sometimes it is because I have not been clear. Too busy people pleasing!!!
With my new venture of facilitating writing workshops I again have to set firm boundaries or I could easily get either carried away and do too much or not be willing to do something because of someone putting me down. I have to work out my life balance. I have things I have to do and things I can do and I have to learn what I can fit into my day and still be me. I need to also find time to write and plan and also just to hang out.
There are some amazing books out there about setting boundaries – which I have read – but actually it isn’t till you have to set them, and then have opposition to them that you realise how you are. Oh yes it is easy for me to set boundaries whether with the Airbnb rooms (yes we are up to 2 now) or with the writing workshops when people are playing ball with them, or even if they give them a bit of a push but when I say “No that’s it” they affirm me. The Airbnb guest being aggressive toward me upset me. Not because he had done it but because I realise how fragile I am about holding on to my boundaries.
So this weekend was hard work. I made some mistakes with the guests, with my husband, with myself, but I have learned a lot through it. And for me learning is always the greatest thing. I am not perfect but I am always learning. This weekend was good – even if there is now a horrid mess that needs cleaning!!! And loads of washing that need doing!! And guests that are arriving soon. – So why am I posting this? Because I told myself I need to publish something on my blog and so I that is also my boundary for me and my writing today.
(Lots of amazing boundary quotes pinched from various places 🙂 )