“This is our calling as Christian faithful: to recognize the Christ in everyone.”
We like to dwell on the dismal parts of ourselves, the ways we’ve been a disappointing friend, how we’ve neglected our children, or irritated our spouse for the one hundredth time today. We meditate on our constant hang-ups and the unhealthy habits we keep trying to break with no success.
And what about all the mistakes and flub-ups and awkwardness that just keeps coming out of me despite my determination to get it right. I can ruminate on my junk for weeks. Words I’ve said that I think I shouldn’t have said, stupid questions I’ve asked, or conversations that have fallen flat or ended in frustration and tears.
No one needs to remind us of this stuff. It eats us up on the inside. I even wonder, is there any benefit to keeping one another accountable to our five areas of growth or the three things we’re working on?
Does anyone here need to tack on one more thing to their trying-to-change-that list?
Obviously, I feel like I need to reassure us all, there’s tension we can hold, a balance to keep. We need to familiarize ourselves with the terrain of our own soul, the darkness that dwells within us, the addictions that might be spoiling our life, and the behaviors that are affecting everyone around us negatively.
But then, and maybe you can attest to a similar experience, I notice what happens when a dear friend affirms me with a simple phrase, “I love that about you, don’t ever change.” I’m not sure any of us know how desperate we are to hear such words until they hit our ears. More than words even, it’s as if an actual space has been cleared for us to come and be ourselves.
And only then do we recognize the drought we’ve been trudging through.
If I, who am surrounded by selfless friends, supportive family, and an adoring husband, sense the way words such as these are snatched up into my desperate soul, then I can hardly imagine how much others might be needing them.
People everywhere, dare I say, those we pass by every day, are parched. Perhaps they are close to dying just to know they are included without needing to tweak this or work on that.
We have a deficiency of welcome in our world.
We ration out acceptance, grace, love, and hospitality toward one another, giving only a few drops here or there when we deem it acceptable. We are more comfortable nit-picking ourselves and standing aloof from our neighbor.
There’s always something isn’t there? Always an unnecessary separation, a distance between me and you, me and God.
Always something we need to change.
The subtle, stern message we are taking in and perpetuating is that in order to be welcomed you need to be doing the work.
There is a shortage of tender people encouraging us to do the opposite, to throw out our self-help propaganda, to part with the voices that advise us to, “fix this first” before such and such can happen, to crumple up our ongoing list of imperfections we are currently refining.
Stay near to those whose welcome is wild, uncontrollable, and even a little offensive to our stiff -upper-lip-religious side. You know the ones.
Their arms open so wide they can’t help but naturally break down the barriers that keep us apart from one another and out of touch with the inherent Spirit of God dwelling within us as a human being.
In their presence you simultaneously see your rampant brokenness and all the countless ways you’re becoming whole.
Wild welcomers incessantly bring you back to your innate goodness and courage, they honor the sheer feat we are all undertaking in simply staying the course. You will frequently hear them say things like, “I love that about you, don’t ever change.”
Tune into those rare voices, notice what happens in you when you’re around them, you might be surprised by how one wild welcome can change everything about your life.