There's a longstanding rule that when you come to my house, you come right in. If you stand at the door and knock, you'll receive an overwhelming greeting by my 90-lb black lab. With a babe on the hip, echoing his every bark with her own little woof woof, I'll scramble to get in front of him, only to see him promptly bolt out the door when I finally get it open.
I can’t say that coming right in is much better. Buck still welcomes every visitor with unrestrained enthusiasm and only calms down once he’s been thoroughly greeted. Such an overwhelming exchange is an unlikely entrance into the space I pray makes others feel safe, the space where I hope to offer the ministry of peace and rest.
Last week, two different young women endured such a hearty welcome on the same day. One at lunch and the other just before dinner. Both had been over at least a handful of times. They knew the drill. Each walked right in and immediately received the uncontrollable affection of my dog.
Smiles covered their faces as my daughter and I joined in the welcome with warm hugs and glad hearts. I ask how they are and chatting naturally drifts to recent events and the facts of everyday life. It seems safer, to stay here in casual conversation, not getting too personal or too vulnerable. But the true feeling of being safe is a feeling akin to trust, to intimacy. And intimacy always gets close to matters of the heart.
As we chat, I lean in, listening for what's underneath, looking for the crevice that will lead us below the surface. That crevice is the place in conversation where smiles get tense. Where voices raise in pitch. Where eye contact wanes. Where words become hard to say.
When I spot the crevice, my heart pounds, knowing it to be all grace if I have the opportunity to travel below the surface, to the hurting places of my sisters’ hearts. I ask for the Spirit to remove any agenda of my own and allow me the privilege of seeing the Kingdom come, right here in my home.
Because if I will be of any help or comfort at all, if they'll find a place of refuge here, I need to be less concerned with how they see me and deeply committed to giving them a glimpse of Jesus. I need to be free of self-concern, free of distraction, free of the fear of man, so I may walk with them into the freedom of being a child of God. I need to be acquainted with my own humanity so I may be both unsurprised by their sin and unwilling to judge or condemn.
With the mission of the King, I walk tenderly toward those places, asking with gentleness to go deeper. In the silence, tears roll down parched faces, and those crevices give way to chasms. They talk slowly, not sure how to put hurt and confusion and sadness and grief into words. They look up, aware of being exposed. I see in their watery eyes an ache to be heard and seen and helped and known, an ache to know they are safe here.
I feel the weight of this broken dam. What should I say? What do they need in this moment? The Kingdom is forging new territory in their hearts, and I’m shaking in my role as an ambassador. In times past, I've been caught up in my own thoughts and pain and pride and have missed these opportunities altogether. I've hesitated to share the truth, not wanting to offend. I’ve been tempted to offer counterfeit peace and shallow hopes that don’t hold up to the weight of brokenness. But the more I align with the agenda of the King, the more I want to offer His ministry. The more I know and believe the truth and peace and hope found in the gospel, in Christ Himself, to be liberating, transcending, and soul-anchoring.
My heart gripped with the gospel message, I extend to them the invitation of the King of kings: Come. Come to Jesus. Find rest for your weary soul. Find forgiveness and grace for your sin-stained hearts and hands. Find comfort and tenderness in the place of your grief. Find fellowship with the Man of Sorrows in your hurt and pain and loneliness. Find hope that all your broken places don't have to harden you or define you. Entrust yourself to the care of Jesus and be filled and mended and restored by His marvelous gospel.
The four walls of this home transform into a haven as the women in front of me find it safe to let all their walls down. Their shoulders loosen, their faces lift, their breaths deepen. This is good news. Even the cheery distractions of toddler talk and dog nuzzling have made for a kind of refuge, fostering courage to open up and receive the ministry of mercy. The fellowship exchanged here over our beloved Jesus renews us and strengthens our hope. We can both sense it—the King has come close, and by His presence, we know it’s a little more on earth as it is in heaven.