Sunday, January 20, 2008


A Dutch word that means a feeling of coziness, but more than carries a social connotation that exudes welcome and peace and lingering and warmth and relief from stress, from hurry. A gezellig person is one who takes part in this lifestyle, who goes to places, who creates places that are socially cosy, whether a garden or a brown cafe, the supper table or the living room hearth.

Certainly the aesthetics of the place play a part. In the Netherlands and Belgium, the brown cafes are such places, with their candlelit glow, their rich and varied beer served with a 4 inch head, each in its own unique glassware. Foam topped amber. And close, intimate table arrangements, so close you're likely to rub shoulders and knees and elbows with those around you. But the person or persons play the greater part. Beauty and Community create gezelligheid. A community that is unhurried, that enjoys lingering over the beer and conversation, and always makes room for one more.

The word carries as well a sense of loss, of past alienation and closed doors, that makes the communal nature that much sweeter. Especially for Americans. What I found compelling about the lifestyle of the people of Amsterdam is that it seems to be part of their daily routine, that leisurely remaining for hours in their brown cafes. And though we try for it at holidays like Christmas and Easter, it's scarce here...stifled perhaps by modernity. Gezelligheid is not eating burgers in the car on the way to gymnastics or basketball. Nor is it pizza while watching TV or texting. But it seems to be longed for again in postmoderns. And emerging in communities of faith, like organic churches, missional churches, and ancient future churches.
Gezelligheid reminds me of Lewis' joy or sensucht. Maybe it's because I've only experienced that joy when I was with another person or people, usually over good food and drink and rich conversation, sometimes in companionable silence in nature, sometimes, but not often enough, in liturgy and at His table. Always a sense of timelessness breaks through and allows a glimpse of the Ultimate "welcome into the heart of things." When, as Lewis says, "the door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last." And stay open forever.

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