Living—& praying—with the windows open

by Kristin on September 10, 2012

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo by tracylinuxgeek

It is blessedly crisp and cool here—finally, after months of the sort of muggy, heavy days that make you hesitate to take a deep breath, for fear you’ll drown.

These past few days, all the windows in our house have been open. I even pulled the quilt out of the closet and spread it in its rightful place on the bed, making our room look fully dressed again after summer’s skimpy, sheets-only look.

While there’s no sleeping condition I love more than the open-windows-sort, there are drawbacks. At night, as I’m falling asleep, I can hear the antics of college kids up the block, sitting outside so they can smoke and laugh late into the night. If I wake up in the middle of the night, when I’d like nature’s white noise to lull me back to sleep, instead I hear the mechanical cycling of my neighbor’s air conditioner. And in the early hours of this morning, an hour before my alarm was set to wake me, I was startled awake instead by the garbage man grunting in the driveway below our window as he heaved our trash can and carried it to the roaring truck.

I know these are only minor intrusions, yet it’s still tempting to be annoyed, in the ridiculous manner of a child who wants to have her cake and eat it, too. Finally, the temperatures have cooled and I can sleep comfortably—the conditions are so close to just right, and yet they are marred.

But then it hits me: Having my windows open is a lot like having my eyes, ears, and heart open to the world. Having access to the fresh air and inspiration I crave, after all, requires a willingness to also be open to the inconveniences and frustrations happening beyond my own little bubble.

On Friday I wrote a column for RELEVANT about hospitality, concluding that true hospitality involves accepting someone as they are and offering, in love, whatever you have to give. It occurs to me that I forgot the very first step: Being hospitable starts with being open to the world around me—not shutting myself off in an attempt to control my environment, while denying access to the lives and needs of others.

Tonight when I go to bed, I will try to revel not just in the comfort of another night of perfect sleeping weather, but also in the way my open windows allow me to extend my awareness beyond myself. I will try to transform what could be only “noise” into opportunities for awareness and compassion: for the college students struggling to find themselves and find their way; for my neighbor, a single mom who can’t open her windows on beautiful nights because her daughter’s allergies and asthma are too severe; and for the garbage man working a difficult and smelly job, whose grunts of exertion I’ve heard, but whose face I’ve never seen.

I will say a prayer for each of them—and another for myself, that I will live with my windows, ears and eyes open, not shutting myself off from all that invigorates and all that troubles this world.

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  • Caris Adel

    oooh dang. This is good. I have the same frustrations with the windows open. What a good way to look at it.

  • Ray Hollenbach

    . . . and is there any better way to fall asleep than praying? (“When I awake, you are still with me . . .”)

  • fiona lynne

    As I read this, I had a picture of Daniel in my head, praying by the open window towards Jerusalem. You remind me that we orient ourselves by how we pray, we realign our broken values with God’s loving ones…

  • Kristin T.

    Caris, thank you. As I was lying in my comfortable bed listening to the garbage man work, I was suddenly so struck by how spoiled I am—I grumble about such small things! Maybe I can turn some of that grumbling into something good.

    Ray, indeed! Maybe when we fall asleep praying the spirit keeps the line of communication flowing while we sleep…

    fiona lynne, I love that image! Thank you for sharing it. The idea of prayer being not just an act of communication but also of orienting ourselves is powerful. Turning our back on the pain of the world is also a way of turning our back on God.

  • Erin

    OH yes. This is so good. We always try to shelter ourselves too much and act annoyed when the real world dares to intrude as it should.

  • Diana Trautwein

    I love sleeping with the windows open and miss it when the weather cools too much for it. But then I don’t live in a city, but in a very wealthy suburb where, believe it of not, Jesus called me to do ministry! We hear crickets, coyotes, occasionally loud dj’s at local parties and we hear the whistle of the Pacific Surfliner train, which I love. These, too, speak to me of blessings, invite me to pray for others, urge me to gratitude. Loved your piece at Relevant. (Somehow, I’ve missed that you live in Urbana. Any chance you’re crossed paths with Scott & Melissa Keeble? He pastors there somewhere -Presbyterian – great people, good friends of my middle daughter and her family…)

  • Kristin T.

    Erin, I love how you put that—”when the real world dares to intrude as it should.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to escape the bustle and noise every once in a while, but in an age of air conditioning and privacy fences and earbuds, it’s so easy to take it too far.

    Diana, this is a beautiful sentence: “These, too, speak to me of blessings, invite me to pray for others, urge me to gratitude.” Thank you for sharing your own experience with open windows. (I don’t know the Keebles, but I’m sure if I ask around I will discover there’s only one degree of separation between us. This is a small city!)

  • Meg

    Wow, this spoke to me and it’s something I really needed to hear.

    “Being hospitable starts with being open to the world around me—not shutting myself off in an attempt to control my environment, while denying access to the lives and needs of others.”

    An introvert and a self-professed homebody, I tend to shy away from people who “need” too much of me – friends with guy problems, my sisters with their woes about college exams and what to do next, my coworkers wwith quetions and a whole list of things they need help with. I find it all overwhelming sometimes. It is entirely more comfortable to maintain my quiet little piece of the world, private but for a chosen few, but that’s not what we’ve been called to do. The Lord has been speaking to me a lot about this lately and I’m grateful for this latest nudge.

  • The Modern Gal

    Love this so much!