I love this image - it's a door swung wide open . . . and maybe you approach it through the woods. It was opened just for you and maybe has been for a while. So you go in.
My life has been speckled with the idea of an open door. Every so often it comes back around, meaning many different things.
The United Methodist Church embraces this statement: "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors."
One of my favorite music students lives in a lovely house with a back garden and they leave their terrace door open, letting the warm air in, showing just a glimpse of the garden beyond.
I loved the chapel on my college campus because the door was always unlocked . . . . open.
When I prepare for choir rehearsal on Wednesday evenings I lay out materials for the choir - kind of like preparing a dinner table, but with music instead of food. And then I unlock all the doors - open.
When a very important butterfly landed on my foot I was sitting in the middle of an incomplete building. No roof. No doors. No window hardware. It was open.
The first time I was confronted with an issue that my faith often turns into a battle of ethics, I realized something about myself . . . I could be open. I could choose to hear someone else and remember that they are a person like me.
I hope to spend the rest of my life open to hearing what other human beings have to say. Because they are different from me. Because they can be wise, and because I will often be wrong.
I will often be wrong.
You will often be wrong.
We are made of dust and we are often wrong.
We can be wrong when we pick up the word of God and throw it at somebody. And let's not pretend that this doesn't happen. I've been following after God for many years and I have every confidence in our human ability to get it wrong. It's humbling. Humiliating. To read the same words we use to convince someone else that their vision is clouded by a little speck and to find that these words are meant for us - a whole plank disrupting our own sight.
This is me. Admitting that I'm often wrong, and asking God to keep me open.
When my husband and I got married our college chaplain said some beautiful things. She said she hoped that our home would be open to guests and children, and that we would be hospitable and gracious in our marriage.
And then she took a picture of us. Standing there, two kids, really hopeful about tomorrow.
We have been married almost four years now. We've just bought our first house.
For several months we avoided inviting anybody over because the house was always unfinished. Maybe it will always be that way.
You remember the blog about the holes in the floor and the broken shades and the messy corners, right?
We finally got brave and invited a dear friend and her daughter to come for dinner. All afternoon as Robbie cleaned and I cooked, I felt this kind of excitement I haven't felt before (because we don't always keep it clean or make fancy food for ourselves).
I could not wait to have my home be open. We had never done anything like this in a house that was our own before!
So we lit candles and played music and set the table.
Our friends came in and we spent several hours eating and telling stories. It was wonderful.
Then the candles burned out and the company left . . . and the dishes were piled in the sink . . . and the excitement was still there.
Hospitality is a naturally beautiful thing. I've received it many times as a gift - someone else's hospitality to me. I've never gotten to extend it quite like this before.
It makes me think about the Spirit of God.
How often have I prepared for meeting with God, thinking that I'll be judged about what I'm wearing or how I sound when I sing? How often have I worried about entering the building that we call the "house of God," thinking that it won't be open to me?
I am assigning human prejudices to God. I am projecting onto God the things I fear from other people.
And I'm always surprised when I find myself accepted and welcomed. Shocked . . . when the understanding of God's presence leaves the building with me - out into the street and the home and the grocery store and the highway.
I forget that we are often wrong, but that God is not . . . God, who can still "exalt in monotony" . . . God, who has not tired of our company yet.
So now I know another way to understand God's presence - the extension of hospitality. The opening of a home and warm conversation.
When the food is gone and the candle is snuffed out, the feeling is still there. A sense of having accepted someone else into a close place. And that we turned our house into something more than the walls and ceiling around us.
Does God not turn us into something more than our human condition?
Does God not move us to bring others into God's own presence? And does this not happen because of hospitality? . . . . graciousness rather than fear.
When our friends left the house last night, I went into the piano room and wrote for a long time.
I was thinking about the hospitality issue in the context of a marriage. What is it that we want our home to be? Is it only for us? Is it a place where we are healed? Was our wedding the most beautiful day and then all of the other days are less beautiful??? Our culture suggests that the wedding day is it. The end rather than the beginning.
It's just like the church. Is Sunday the only beautiful day, and then we won't be in the presence of God until next Sunday??? Or Saturday? Whatever day seems holy to us? Is that all?
I hope that's not all.
My prayer for my own home and my own marriage. But also the world.
Peace and Goodness,