To the woman who came to our church, but left feeling even more empty. I never really saw you. Sure, you were there, but our differences made you invisible to me. Of course, I wouldn’t say that out loud. Invisible sounds harsh. But, I am pretty sure that was how you had to feel. You didn’t look like me. We didn’t share the same taste in clothing. You voted differently. You spoke differently. And your background wasn’t one in which I could relate. I have always seen myself as an open-minded person, but being open-minded and open-hearted are entirely different. Open-minded says I won’t hate you for being different. Open-hearted says I will love you in spite of our differences. Any civil person can be open-minded, but it takes God’s love to be open-hearted.
We introduced ourselves to one another, but I forgot your name soon after. Later, I asked about your children, and we talked about the usual things like ages, and how boys will be boys, but I never asked you to meet us for a play date or lunch at chick-fil-a. We didn’t invite your family over for dinner or ever make any plans to know you better. Week-after-week, you came. I said hello, most of the time, but never took the time to really know you. You began volunteering in children’s church. You worked quietly. Faithfully. You were greeted with a smile, but never known as a friend. We had no idea how lonely you were, and how you couldn’t quite seem to fit in or find a simple friend. Why couldn’t the church have been that place your searching heart could finally call home? We didn’t know that you and your husband were fighting keep your marriage together or that you all were struggling to make ends meet. We didn’t know your family was at it’s breaking point. How could we?
You see, an empty smile isn’t enough. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we kept you at arms length, because you were, well different. You didn’t quite fit our mold, so invisible walls stood tall. It wasn’t anything that you did wrong, it was just that you were too foreign for us to call you friend –to make this your home. We have created this inclusive culture in the church. Our social club is full of others who are just like us. As much as we want to say the lost, lonely, and losing are welcome, they are still outsiders. We feel good when we make them our projects, but making them a part of our lives would be too much. Too uncomfortable. How can the church be a light to the world when we can’t even love the people within our very walls?
While it is human nature to gravitate towards those who are like ourselves. May Christ be our common ground so that our circle of friends is not simply based on our dying outer appearances and status, but the rich eternal inward likenesses. Our relationships will be all the richer if they are based upon the eternal instead of the fleeting. After all, what does the love of Christ mean if it doesn’t mean loving the lonely woman who, in all reality, looks more like Christ than we do? I wonder if Christ walked through the doors of our church, if I would glance past him and disregard him based upon his outward appearance alone. God, forgive me. Help us do better than this. Jesus. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. May our circle of friends not be the ‘who’s who’, but let it be richer than that. May it not be a circle at all. But an ever-growing tapestry full of the broken, battered, bullied and boring. It’s messy and beautiful. It’s called The Gospel. We come together through Christ’s love to make this beautiful tapestry that brings comfort and friendship and makes this fleeting passing world feel like home a glimpse into our eternal home for the lost and losing, for all of us. Jesus.