The Art of Sharing Space
I've shared a room nearly my entire life. During the early years, it was with my sister. Each day it took work to share the same space. I wanted things neat; she was oblivious to mess. She was loud; I liked quiet. It was not always easy or enjoyable cohabitating. Once in a desperate attempt to declare autonomy, I taped a line down the middle of the room. At the time, I did not see this arrangement as a gift, and I would have given anything to have my own room. But in hindsight, Im grateful we were forced to work out conflicts, and have sweet memories of staying up late chatting and whispering secrets in our big four poster bed.
Later in college, when I finally did have my own room, I still shared an apartment with a “roommate”. This allowed me to have a (mostly) clean room, but at the cost of it feeling lonely. So much so, that often my roommate and I would yell back and forth between our rooms in order to avoid the deafening quiet of a lonely room. Or we would pick one room to both sleep in so we could be together. Sharing an apartment meant that not everything was always just where I put it or available for my use. I had to wash her dishes, and she put up with my guitar playing late at night. Sharing spaces requires a constant willingness to bend toward someone else comfort, often at your own expense. It is hospitality in its most basic form and it takes effort to consider someone else’s desires above your own.
Marriage and children provide plenty of opportunities to learn to be hospitable with space. Like most married couples after a certain number of years, my husband and I have moved toward each other in habits and usage of space. I pile things much more than I used to and he sometimes files things now. He knows the kitchen isn't clean until the counters are wiped down and I wear a sleep mask so that he can stay up late reading. After 16 years and 5 children, we’re still learning how do this well. Most days I have very little time or space to myself and may occasionally lock myself in the bathroom for a moment of quiet and solitude. Putting myself in a place where I have to share points out my inherent selfishness and requires me to deal with it head on.
Recently I was talking with a friend about our experiences hosting various people in our home for extended periods of time. Over the years we have shared our home with family, friends, and strangers. Opening our doors to others have been incredible experiences that have challenged us to flex muscles of hospitality, sometimes in new ways. Like with any exercise, sharing our home with others has sometimes caused aches, but also has strengthened us. We have adopted the philosophy that our space is not our own, but a gift we can share. It is really just an extension of what God has blessed us with.
The art of sharing space continues to shape and challenge me as I attempt to care for other people.
At times it has been messy and hard and uncomfortable to share my space with others, but I would not trade these experiences for an easier, cleaner and more comfortable space that is only my own. I see that I am being drawn from an individual mindset into a communal one.
These experiences have strengthened relationships by tangibly modeling what hospitality can look like. They often demand, in a very tangible yet beautiful way that I shift to considering the needs of others before myself.
Our two oldest kids have expressed the desire the one day have their own rooms. Like me, they know it would just be easier and I certainly understand the appeal. Thankfully, like other aspects of parenting, I have the privilege of time and experience. At least enough to know they will grow in character as the years go by, sharing their space and hopefully their hearts as well.