Trunk-or-treat, taken -- obviously -- in the church kitchen last Sunday night
First of all, this is to say that I do clean up well, and generally offer a touch of class to my Halloween attire. I don’t do scary, I do classy, historic, period, clever, or literary. I used to ride horses, I keep the helmet around for just such occasions, and I was dressed and pressed in four layers of clothing to suggest fox hunting.
Because that’s how I roll.
And again, I clean up well…but I don’t roll out of bed in perfectly pressed clothing, shapewear, hair product, and make-up.
Laundry day. Home with the Ridiculous Creature (new roommates’ not-that-bright Papillion), sorting laundry upstairs, he’s downstairs.
The Ridiculous Creature, photo swiped from my friend's Facebook feed
Door. Bell. Rings.
The Ridiculous Creature takes off barking, with all ferocity, up the stairs to me:
“INTRUDERS!!! DO SOMETHING!!!”
I mentioned laundry day, right?
So I go downstairs in what I have on: white flannel conversation heart print pajama bottoms, a brown and tan striped shelf tank, black flip flops, hair sticking up everywhere, obviously needing a shower.
I open the door *just* as a woman is trying to shove a tract through the crack in the front door (Note: this house needs better weather-stripping because it was working!). There were two of them — middle aged hispanic women, well-dressed, long and straight black hair neat down their backs.
And me: standing before them, looking like I rolled out of bed at the local psychiatric ward, Ridiculous Creature barking — fit to kill — on the stairs beside me.
The woman with the tract takes one look at me and says: “Hi, can we give you this?” as they both start leaving…quickly.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, a tract on life after death on All Saints/All Souls weekend. Nice.
I read it, I always read tracts. I don’t hold that tracts are particularly effective as evangelism tools, but I always read everyone’s tracts.
I giggled up the stairs, but then as I thought about what just happened, it occurred to me: these are people who (wrongly) think they have a message and method for salvation, but they left me. Without going into it, suffice it to say the works-based, grace-free model of salvation is just the tip of the iceberg for Jehovah’s Witnesses, as they are a modern rehash of the Arian heresy (Christ not divine but created). Now, as my mother will tell you, I go out of my way to be irritatingly kind and welcoming to Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they think they get “extra credit” for mean people. I’m an evangelist, let’s go. Eventually they stop coming around, and I never seem to make headway (I did unconvert a Mormon once though).
But seriously, it disturbs me — a value judgment was made on my doorstep by people who think they have the gospel of salvation not to share it with me.
Let that sink in.
It doesn’t matter that Jehovah’s Witness is a cult, I get that. What bothers me is that I opened the door and they decided: nope, next house.
Because, you know what? I’m an Evangelical Christian who would absolutely claim to have the gospel of salvation. Maybe I’m not most people, because I’m willing to drop everything and talk to people for hours. Does it do any good always? I don’t know, but I can try to bring hope and love, right?
I was reading In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J.M. Nouwen this morning. In the chapter titled “The Question: ‘Do You Love Me?'” Nouwen reflects:
Look at Jesus. The world did not pay any attention to him. He was crucified and put away. His message of love was rejected by a world in search of power, efficiency, and control. But there he was, appearing with wounds in his glorified body to a few friends who had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. This rejected, unknown, wounded Jesus simply asked, “Do you love me, do you really love me?” He whose only concern had been to announce the unconditional love of God had only one question to ask, “Do you love me?”
The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus? Perhaps another way of putting the question would be: Do you know the incarnate God?
I like to — hope to — think the answer with respect to myself is: yes.
Based on nothing but professed allegiance to a theological and cosmological worldview that excludes the incarnate God (as Christ was not God, according to what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and teach), the answer for the two women on my doorstep this morning was probably: no.
Image source: the wonderful Keeping Company blog
In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, cares, reaches out and wants to heal. In that heart there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred. It is a heart that wants only to give love and receive love in response. It is a heart that suffers immensely because it sees the magnitude of human pain and the great resistance to trusting the heart of God who wants to offer consolation and hope.
But here’s the deal…
A value judgment was made on my doorstep by two women who believe they have the answer and the gospel of salvation that I wasn’t worth the effort. That disturbed me then and still disturbs me.
They walked away…and I shut the door.
Because this is where it gets tough: I shut the door.
I would argue, as an Evangelical Christian, that I have the answer and the gospel of salvation. If I really believe what I say I believe, and that the Holy Spirit is mixed up in this too, shouldn’t I be always willing to share this news with every human who crosses my path always?
Because maybe a value judgment about me was made when those two women — confronted with a woman dressed like a three year-old and a creepy yipping dog — decided to leave my doorstep, but what I now realize? The second I started closing the door, I made the reciprocal value judgment about them.
And, okay, maybe me chasing them down would have made a terrible impression, maybe they wouldn’t have stopped to talk, maybe they wouldn’t have listened, maybe they wouldn’t have been receptive, maybe nothing would have changed.
But the trouble is? I’ll never know, I never gave them — or the Holy Spirit — a chance.
The hound of heaven does not relent — if God is after those two nameless women on my doorstep, he will find them. The trouble is, I denied the Holy Spirit the opportunity to use me. And why? That’s the worst part: essentially because my jeans were dirty and I wanted clean sheets. That…is like the worst excuse note ever.
I am very, very sorry I did not keep my divine appointment today. I forgot to look for it. But, see, I was distracted by the fact that my sheets were stinky and I didn’t have any clean jeans. I’m sorry I failed to recognize the two women on my doorstep were precious in your sight, loved by you, and made in the image of God. But really, who has time? I mean the washing machine takes over an hour to wash a load that big, and about two hours to dry, that’s a long time to go without clean pants! Yeah, okay, eternity without you is longer, but it’s not like I knew them or we had anything in common. And anyway, even if I screwed this up, you can use someone else, right? So really, it’s all good.
Glad we cleared that up.
See you Sunday!
(To be clear — satire!!!)
But isn’t that — essentially — the attitude my actions reflected, apathy?
Lesson for today (which I hope to be able to remember next time): We are all precious, loved, and made in the image of God. Look for — and notice — divine appointments.