Welcoming the Unlovely

There is a great story in a book, "The Women We Become" by Ann Thomas called Baucis and Philemon. It is a story about Jupiter, the god who ruled over Mt. Olympus and his visit to a small village to see if it was inhabited by kind and hospitable people or not. He and his son, Mercury, disguised themselves in beggars' clothes and went from door to door begging for food and rest. At each door, however, they were turned away, finally arriving at the home of Baucis, an old woman and her husband, Philemon. Here the two weary travelers were invited in and fed. As Philemon poured the wine, and then re-poured the glasses, he noticed that the wine was never depleted. Suddenly, the couple realized that they were entertaining no ordinary guests.

They quickly apologized for the poor fair and set about to kill the family goose, which avoided them, and finally came to rest by the gods. "You have done enough", said Jupiter and Mercury, "We can see that you are kind people and you will be rewarded." They were then taken to the top of the hill above the city and were shown that the village had disappeared under water and they were given any wish that they might like to have. They wanted to serve in the temple of Jupiter until they died and then to be able to die together. When the end of their days came, they were both transformed at the same time--Baucis into a beautiful silver linden tree and Philemon into an oak.

This is a beautiful story that I have learned so much from, mostly about honoring my anger and fear as guests that come disguised as dirty, musty old beggars. They knock on my door unexpectedly and upon opening it I find something that I would rather not see. My tendency and I think the tendency of most of us is to slam the door shut and deal with this ugliness later. The story, however, teaches us to invite them in for tea and a rest. What interesting conversations we might have with them. They are indeed, gods in disguise.

"What are you here to teach me, fear? Just what might I learn from you?"

"Anger, you have appeared quite suddenly, what are you so eager for me to know?"

Being hospitable to negative emotions is an idea that most of us are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with, but they usually hold the key to the next step in our journey, they can be harbingers of blessings if we but take the time to sit with them, honoring them in the same way we do as the more pleasant emotions of happiness or delight.

I have found that many times my fear or anger shows me where I yet need to heal. By addressing this with love and kindness I am given the next step in my journey. It is usually far easier and less painful than I ever imagined.