Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On Opening our Doors

Photo by PBS companies (pbsdesignbuild.com)

As our church looks forward to opening the doors on a new building, I can’t help but think of the entryway to my own home. I want you to take this moment to envision your own front door. Now ask yourself: "How many women from our church have walked through that entrance?" (I understand that some people justify that they can't comfortably welcome people into their home. If that is the case with you, think about your front door as a theoretical one to your life.)

The other day, my friend came to pick me up for a girls’ night out. Peeking through my window, I saw her step out of her vehicle. Swiftly, I opened my front door just wide enough to allow myself to sneak out before she could ring the doorbell. To assure my escape to freedom, without allowing anyone inside the house to get away, I quickly shut the door behind me. Laughter welcomed the night before us as we pulled out of the driveway waving goodbye to the prisoners inside. As I breathed a sigh of relief, I felt God challenging me a bit about the picture I had just painted.

My actions had given every appearance that I needed to run away from the chaos. An examination of my heart, however, told the truth that I simply didn’t want to let anyone in. While I could have opened wide the front door of my home and welcome my friend, I chose to allow the mess inside to dictate my actions.
The parallel to my heart is uncanny. Putting on a smile, I step up to my role in this masquerade of life. I wear my mask, painting myself as a good church-going gal. I am afraid of what others will think if they know the truth about my real life. At all costs, it feels important to keep up the fa├žade that I’ve got it all together instead of revealing the raw truth that things are all too often a painful mess.

Recently, a close friend brought her children over so the kids could play while we caught up. When nap time came for her youngest, I had a choice to make. Our time could be interrupted or I could invite her to put her daughter down for a nap in my home. While everything in me wanted to offer one of my girls’ rooms for her infant to sleep, I knew the master bedroom was the one assured place she wouldn’t be disturbed.

I extended the invitation challenged by God’s calling for me to open wide the door of my life. Setting up the pack and play required taking a deep breath. My master bedroom had become the catch all. Baskets of clothes, toys, and odds and ends of all kinds covered every inch of our floor. There was hardly even enough empty space to erect the portable crib. It didn’t matter how much I told myself that my friend wouldn’t judge me… shame and embarrassment still threatened to end our time together.

As my friend walked through the door of my bedroom, I took another deep breath and left her alone to get her child situated. In that moment, I knew this was more than simply allowing another into the dirty places of my home. It was about tearing down the walls and saying “yes” to God.

Today, I realize that my girlfriend likely hasn’t given this moment a second thought. I, on the other hand, am sharing it to illustrate a passion God has given me for the women of Southfield. My dream is that no woman would ever feel alone in this community. I want women to associate the word Southfield with friendship and acceptance. Let’s tear down the walls. Open our front doors wide. Welcome one another into the mess we call life. Friendship isn’t just about celebrating together. It’s about knowing there is somewhere for you to turn when it all falls apart. Let’s make sure no one has to feel alone.

In her book, Bread and Wine, Author Shauna Niequist depicts my dream beautifully. I want to read you a part of it:

This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner’s at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter…

Gather the people you love around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity…
There will be a day when life falls apart. My very dear friend lost her mom this year. That same month, another friend’s marriage ended, shot through with lies and heartbreak. A friend I hadn’t talked to in ages called late one Sunday night to ask me how to get through a miscarriage… As I write, a dear family friend lies in a coma in a hospital bed.

These are things I can’t change. Not one of them. Can’t fix, can’t heal, can’t put the broken pieces back together. But what I can do is offer myself, wholehearted and present, to walk with the people I love through the fear and the mess. That’s all any of us can do. That’s what we’re here for…

… the presence, the listening, the praying with and for on the days when it all falls apart, when life shatters in our hands.

The table is where we store up for those days, where we log minutes and hours building something durable and strong that gets tested in those terrible split seconds. And the table is where we return to stitch our hearts back together after the breaking…

…It’s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented, frantic person, phone in one hand and to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age… The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.

… I want you to live with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it.

I want you to invest yourself wholly and deeply in friendship, God’s greatest evidence to Himself here on earth.

Two verses come to mind when I think about the women of Southfield. First the Apostle Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 6, verse 2 to “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Second, he writes to the Romans in chapter 1, verse 12: “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” I can only imagine what our relationships would look like if we kept these verses in mind.

While we have an incredible opportunity with this new venture we are on, I don’t want us to ever forget that WE are the church. As we look forward to our first day in the new building together, let’s prepare by opening wide our front doors for friendship. Let’s take off our masks and invite each other in to our real lives.