In February I wrote about the frustration I felt surrounding my family’s busy schedule. The pockets of time I lost in a perpetual cycle of “I don’t have enough” and “not now”. I felt bad about it – and shook my head over it for a while. Then God helped me spot areas in my life where His hospitality and generosity eclipse my ability. It’s simple and practical and it happens without my thinking about it. I’m learning to ease into a hospitality that works.
I pulled up to the corner near 125th Street to make an early evening appointment at the National Black Theater. Three pre teen-aged girls jumped out of my minivan – cute and stylish if a little nervous. I ask them for a quick picture before they run upstairs to meet figure skating star Rory Flack. So in spite of feigned impatience – they pose. Lit like the glory of a setting sun, I felt warmed by the spirit magic of a gaggle of young women on the verge. Their faces, against the backdrop of a setting sun, filled my heart with cotton candy colored clouds. It’s magic. Magic happens in and around my minivan. All the time.
First let me say this – I love these girls. Watching them grow from 1st graders to full on preteen loveliness has been a treat. Granted, sometimes it feels like it’s all I do…shuttle girls around the city, but when I think about it it’s probably one of my most satisfying ministries. My favorite call to service…my way of joining in the radical work of doing the will of Christ in the world. In opening the heart of my minivan I make opportunities happen. Taking them home, returning them at days end to their families, expresses the radical love – the call of service in tuning into the spirit of motherhood. This is the practical hospitality of mothering girls. I know how to do this.
So a ride in my minivan is never just a ride in the minivan.
They pile into the car, cold and tired. Three hours at an outdoor rink in the middle of winter in NYC will keep you moving but it won’t keep you warm. Either they’re high on their accomplishments, or tired thinking of undone homework assignments. Are they frustrated by failures or plain old hungry? Maybe there was a little teen tension on the ice and they need to talk it through. Either way I can gauge the mood and settle it with grace over music or food. Most times both.
And I listen. I listen to them giggle and yell at each other to pass the chips. I get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a young woman – now and how they feel about everything from Bruno Mars to the latest skating equipment. I know it’s a time of ministry but I don’t want to be the Bible-thumping mama. I want to usher them to Jesus during a conversation about the music of Taylor Swift. I want them to feel His love and acceptance every time we trade farewells.
Because the time we spend in the car is something we have to do God graces me the chance to tell a little of His story over chips and slightly inappropriate “your mama” jokes. In the 20 minutes we share 3 nights a week I live the gospel of love with my girls. This isn’t rocket science…it’s better. It’s the practical hospitality of a ride home.
I think most of us just want to be loved. To be accepted for who we are. As is. I make a point of commenting on new hairstyles and ask about skating goals. I point out strengths and give suggestions on “how to be”…when asked. What these girls want is to know how to be in the world while maintaining their unique traits. The particular cocktail of genes that makes them one of a kind. They want to know how to hold onto that and still have friends. I tell them it’s possible…and not always with words. I tell them when I open the door. When I see them. When I share snacks or ask how they’re doing while keeping eye contact. Maybe it happens in the planting of a kiss on a frost bitten cheek.
Maybe something about our time in the car is holy. Our weekly dates in a minivan, consecrated time …set apart for His great pleasure.
I’m convinced it is. Maybe the glimpse of God glory in my rear view mirror, the shining eyes and smiling faces are His reflection. I see it in them. I hope they see Him in me.
Maybe this ride is holy. Maybe they see the same things I do – angels and an undeniable picture of Jesus.