The Guest House

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I am grateful to Ivonprefontaine for reminding me about Rumi’s wonderful poem, The Guest House. It seems perfect for Lent in that it explores an important dimension of hospitality in a way that reminds me of Jesus’s temptations in the wilderness.
Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet. He was a Sunni Muslim, theologian and Sufi mystic. He was the “father” of the Whirling Dervishes (founded by his son, Sultan Walad).

The image of the poem is freely available through Pixabay

Wearing other people’s faces

Parker Palmer has a lot of sensible things to say about vocation in Let your life speak. The book has the strapline – “Listening for the Voice of Vocation”.

Palmer refers to vocation not “as a goal to be achieved”, but as a “gift to be received”. It is about understanding the selfhood given to us by God at birth. Palmer refers to Rabbi Zusya, who as an old man said “In the coming world, they will not ask: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?'”

As we grow we are trained into acceptability and finish up “wearing other people’s faces”. The deepest vocational question becomes not “what ought I to do with my life?” but “who am I? What is my nature?” The misunderstanding of vocation arises around the confusion between doing and being. Dave Walker’s cartoon on the hierarchy of vocation illustrates (and mocks) the “doing” – though unfortunately that remains the pre-occupation (a good word for this context!).

Palmer highlights the definition of vocation by Frederick Buechner. He describes vocation as “the place where your deep gladness meets with the world’s deep need.” When vocation is just masquerading as that great damage is caused. Another quote – this time from Rumi: “If you are here unfaithfully with us you’re causing terrible damage.”

Now I become myself.
It’s taken time, many years and places.
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces …

Now I become myself by May Sarton from Collected Poems