Yesterday, Allen introduced us to “zimzum.” If you haven’t read that you need to! Allen defined zimzum for us like this: divine contraction for the sake of others.
The word “zimzum” originates in discussions about creation. It is the process by which the world is created. As Allen said, first there was God and nothing else. Then God contracts and makes something new out of nothing.
If you stop and think about it, this is actually a pretty amazing thing. Because God had lots of options.
When you start with nothing, there really are no limits to what you can do. God could have used absolute power to make a legion of minions to either be exactly like God. Or God could have made mindless robots to do God’s bidding without question.
But this God contracts. This God restricts God’s power to make something which is DIFFERENT than God.
The very first act of creation is an act of love where God limits power so something OTHER than God can exist and flourish. The world and human beings are created by a self-giving act of love.
Not only does God contract and limit Godself so something different could exist, God creates a place for interaction between God and not-God to happen. And then even further, this not-God people who comes into being are co-creators with God.
Creation is not a one and done act, it is something which happens continually, and God invites human beings into the process.
This is a different narrative than you get anywhere else. Because in this story, God making the world and God making people is the first recorded act of hospitality.
God makes space for that which is different from God, because this God is love itself.
Yet in this very act, God becomes quite vulnerable.
God is vulnerable because to welcome difference and otherness is to open up the possibility that this whole creation process could go incredibly wrong. God could be wounded.
We know how that story turned out. And we will explore some of that next week. But for today, let’s make a few observations about what we can learn about hospitality from God:
1. Hospitality requires us to make space. Hospitality does not just happen. We have to make space for it. It is intentional. Hospitality requires making the physical space and time for interaction, and it requires making space in my own heart for another person.
2. Hospitality allows others to be themselves. God could force people to be how they should be. But this would not be very zimzummy (I think I just invented an awesome word) of God. We often assume difference is a signal that we need to make other people just like us. That is not hospitality. Hospitality allows other people to be who they are, because hospitality assumes difference is actually a GOOD thing.
3. Hospitality presupposes difference. It is easy to make room for those who are just like you. It is much more difficult to make room for those who are different. It requires me shrinking back my own ideas, thoughts, needs, and wants for the sake of another. It requires hearing opinions and ideas other than your own. It requires listening and being willing to be changed by another. And in the process, I just might be changed myself. By opening myself up to differences, I expand and grow.
4. Hospitality costs.
First of all, it can be a pain in the butt. I have kids, a full-time job, I’m working on a PhD and I am an introvert. It is a lot of effort for me to make room in my life for other people. I get it. But hospitality is in the DNA of what it means to be a
Christian human. Not only does it advance the Kingdom of God, but I grow and develop in the process.
Secondly, hospitality requires vulnerability. Hospitality requires me to put myself out there and to risk. It could go wrong. I could get hurt. It also requires there to be mutuality. Hospitality is not me reaching out to those below me, hospitality is me allowing someone who is different to be on equal footing. This is a very difficult and vulnerable place to be.
Third, if I am doing zimzum kinds of hospitality, I have to give up a lot. I have to shrink back and assume I don’t have the final answer on everything. I might have my assumptions challenged. Or worse, those assumptions might need to change. That is an incredibly difficult thing to do. It is uncomfortable and even painful. Yet thankfully, as we know, the same God of zimzum is the God of resurrection. So finally:
5. Hospitality brings new life. The first act of hospitality is the creation narrative. Built in to how the world works is that when we risk and contract, we create space for new life. It is never guaranteed, but the act of hospitality is the only way we can truly make space for new life and new ways of being.
Hospitality teaches us the rhythm of Resurrection.