Across the miles they drove, journeying four hours north on washboard roads until they reached this country hill.
“We want to talk about the conference,” they had said on the phone. “We can fill you in on the details in person. The more you know about us, the easier it will be for you to prepare.”
I heard their words, but I was deaf to their hearts, because as the date of their visit approached, the puddle of panic around me grew deeper and murkier. The faithless ponderings multiplied:
They’ll be sorry they traveled all this way to meet someone so ordinary. What if they want to quiz me on my theology? I’m sure they’ll take one look at my tiny kitchen and my beat up wood floors and decide that I’m a mess, too.
This, for me, has been the challenge of the Christian life: to boldly welcome others into the mess that is me, and then to trust – to trust that God will build a bridge between our hearts, and to trust that others will respond with acceptance and love.
As it happens, my new friends arrived a few minutes late – GPS’s aren’t much help out here! More important, though, when they showed up in my driveway, they did not arrive bearing an impossible yardstick or hearts of judgment. They were not expecting me to look or sound like a conference speaker or to live in a museum of Pinterest perfection.
We exchanged warm hugs and settled down to business. They shared their stories and described their community, drawing me into their fellowship of women:
the diligent seekers after Truth;
the heartsick lovers of prodigal children;
the faithful caregivers who bridge and mend the generations;
the patient prayer warriors who battle daily on behalf of unsaved husbands.
We broke zucchini bread together and my worries about my mum-jeans and sub-standard housekeeping practices were forgotten as we engaged in sincere prayer for the planning of the conference and for the women who would be challenged by the Truth.
I was the girl with the teakettle on the stove and my Canadian grandmother’s delicate cups and saucers all arranged to receive guests, but these women who had traveled across two state lines on an early Monday morning were the true extenders of hospitality.
They transcended geography, opened their hearts, and welcomed me into their lives in the spirit that Paul describes in Romans 15:7:
Therefore, receive one another just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
Stretching out both hands to receive the world, Jesus’ act of cross-shaped love still flattens the barriers that appear so insurmountable to this fearful and self-protective introvert. God is mightily glorified when, by grace, we reach across the artificial boundaries of politics, race, or denomination in order to truly “receive one another” in unity and acceptance.
Wanting to send my new friends on their way with sweetness, I pulled tiny jars of apple butter from my basement shelves. But the greater gift that day was offered to me — the priceless welcome and deep hospitality of friendship.