day 5 – sharing – (living below the line diaries)

It’s day five and we’re nearly there… how will life look different tomorrow? For starters we’ll be baking a dessert to take round to some friends we’re sharing dinner with in the evening. And of course we’ll be able to spend what we need to make something we can all actually enjoy.


Largely this is what has been most different about this week from any other in our lives. Beyond the inner reality of struggles we’ve been sharing, and the obvious outward difference of what we’re eating; the way we choose to live out community has also been significantly affected.

We have deferred hospitality

We got through this week by keeping all five days clear of hosting anyone.

Last week (which was exceptionally busy) we had one house guest for two nights, one person for lunch, a united prayer meeting where the tea and coffee flowed; and three different sets of people over for dinner. And we loved making a fuss of them all! There was home-made bread; home-made cake; wine (where appropriate!); home-made lemonade; meat and a signature dish full of the fresh and delicious kinds of things we’ve been dreaming of this week, such as avocado, mango and olives…

And next week it will all start again.

We’ve still seen people this week of course – at small group, a church meeting, coffee/water with a couple of friends, time with work colleagues, and our usual Thursday night hang out with our closest friends.

But we’ve not shared food with any of them. And our house has been – to all intents and purposes – closed.

That’s very different to how we normally share life with people.

Offering hospitality is central to our sense of community. So why have we stopped it this week?

Of course the main reason is that it just felt the easiest and most practical thing to do… but today we’re reflecting on how challenging it might have been had we continued to have people over.

Would we have invited them to share our rationed food for the week, and then tried to survive on whatever was left? Or would we have neatly compartmentalised our “exercise” and prepared something different for them?

And what about if we had met someone desperately in need of food this week? Someone with less than us… What then? We probably would have been too embarrassed to share what we were having… and insisted on going out and buying them something really nutritous and satisfying. But how would that have made them feel?

Of course, for people living below the line in reality these questions are not just speculations. They are choices that have to be made.

In many of the cultures where some of the poorest communities live, welcoming people is a highly prized value, and if a visitor was to come, you would simply do without to give them the best you could offer – even if you couldn’t really afford to.

You certainly wouldn’t just defer hospitality to a more convenient time – and in any case, next week would present all the same challenges.

Closer to some neighbours… and more isolated from others

This experience – of trying in some small way to walk alongside people living in poverty – has been indescribably rich. And one of the things we’ll definitely take away from it is the new compassion and admiration we have felt for our brothers and sisters who are truly living below the line.

Most Christian fasting is designed to bring you closer to God by providing more time and focus for prayer. But this fast has also brought us closer to our global neighbours because they have been constantly on our minds as we’ve struggled to cope with a fraction of what they face every week.

But that closeness has come at a cost – it’s also made us feel more separated from our usual community.

In all honesty, we can’t wait to get back to having cups of tea with our friends, inviting them over, and enjoying leisurely conversations over good food and drink.

But our fervent hope and prayer is that we will find a way to walk the line so we don’t cross back to somewhere too far away from the 1.4 billion people we’ve been trying to walk alongside this week.

A prayer for balance

Teach me to walk a tight-rope Lord
Because I don’t want to slip straight back into old, easy ways
Of comfort, luxury and greed.
Quick to forget 1.4 billion faces and stories
And eager to hear “you’ve done enough”,
“You need to fit in to some degree”
Or worse still, to believe the lie
That my indulgence is somehow unrelated to others’ need.

And yet I want to enjoy what you have given,
Remebering I’m a beloved child
Savouring each good gift from you
And sharing them with my friends right here
As well as with these global neighbours who feel so close.
I want to carry a cross because of the joy you have set before me,
And given already, and give still each day
Living in grace and freedom, not guilt.

So teach me to walk this tight-rope Lord –
Looking to you and the way that you walked
Listening for what you say is enough and too much
Ready to understand that will change because you love me
And refusing to drown out my questions with distractions.
Walk with me Lord, perhaps if you take my hand and stay close
I’ll be steady enough to complete the course and balance my act.

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