Ah, a new year. It seems every time we hit the third or fourth of January, Christmas is a distant memory, the festivities of New Year’s are mostly forgotten and it’s back to the normal ordinary life we lived up until the 22 or 23rd of December. We’re back to the relentless political mud slinging. The continuation of security threats and endless terrorist/media laden fear that seemed to control us before, is back as I sit and read my news feed everyday.
So, what awaits us? It looks like increased national security in many countries. Deeper, thicker and more entrenched political lines become, even within the Church. More on going wars, and, sadly, more fear. Fear is a powerful motivator. Giving into fear has caused for some massive changes and reforms in my home country, the United States, and has caused many walls and barriers to be constructed in the hearts and minds of those within the Church.
Growing up (and maybe it’s still the trend) there were several people I knew that had a “formal” living room and a “family room” living room. As I got older and eventually became a pastor, when I went to someone’s house, I noticed I was going to less of the family room and staying more in the tidier, perhaps more uninviting formal living room. It was a weird shift for me, unless of course they were close friends where we would hang out in the family room.
I also remember watching old movies. When people would come to visit, the women, it seemed, would go to have tea while the men would go to the den. The den was an incredible place with a selection of strong drinks in an antique globe, oaken bookshelves lined the walls while the other walls had trophies from various hunts around the world. Pipes in hand with their smoking jackets on, they would sit on big, overstuffed leather couches surrounding a grand fireplace. I used to dream (and still do) of having a room like that-comfy, inviting, a place I could linger for a while with a book or in deep conversation.
Henri Nouwen described “hospitality of heart” with the picture that our hearts are a living room. A place that is to be hospitable, welcoming, comfortable. A place that is set up in such a way that others want to come, converse, linger with us. John wrote in Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I (God) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (ESV). Nouwen describes in his book “Reaching Out: Three Movements of the Spiritual Life,” that Jesus is standing at the door to our hearts. That He desires we invite Him in, welcome Him, dine with Him…linger while He is with us. Nouwen goes onto describe that our hearts need to be hospitable places, places where we meet others, invite them…a place where they can meet Jesus and experience Him. A family room, not a formal living room.
What an incredible picture. My heart, my living room, is a place where I cannot only invite Jesus into but others as well. My heart can be a place where others can meet Him for the first time or perhaps engage Him on a level never yet before. All because I am hospitable…because I have made a place for Christ.
In the fear that seems to surround us, I wonder if we have made space in our living room for Christ? I wonder if our doors are so bolted and locked out of fear of what lies on the other side, that we dare not open it up for Christ, let alone anyone else? Be it a refugee from another land or a longtime neighbor who simply doesn’t even know they are lost- are our hearts a welcoming, inviting place that is comfortable enough for people to desire to come in… to linger?
My prayer is that this new year our hearts would be full of people engaging Christ in the ways they need in our hearts as we make room for them. My prayer for all of us is that we are allowing them in, risking potential heart break, for the grace and peace of Christ. to make space in the living room for the unexpected encounter with Christ.
Peace and Blessings to you this 2016.
What are your thoughts on the living room of your heart? Have you experienced letting others in and them finding Christ within your heart? Have you experienced shutting out others as a result of fear? How did you reconcile through that? Sharing each others victories and struggles allows us all to grow together. I’d love to hear your story.