Two years ago I invited a stranger to live with us. It was a normal Saturday, and our paths crossed unexpectedly. Well, so I thought. Our conversation began at the surface but took a turn, she didn’t have to say much for me to notice the layers beneath her joyful façade.
Suddenly I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit. I tried to ignore it’s prompting, but it hijacked the conversation, “If you’re ever in need of a place to live, give me a call okay? We’ve got a spare bedroom. You’d be welcome to stay.”
I never expected her to call. And yet I tossed those words out like confetti into the air, letting them fall swiftly to the ground. As simple and carefree as Winnie The Pooh singing, “tut tut looks like rain”.
You’d be welcome to stay.
It’s real easy to offer help and say you’re invited and a lot harder to be deliberate and follow through. It takes guts and time and sweat to follow through. It requires inconvenience, vulnerability, and braving insecurities.
It takes logistics like changing the sheets and buying an extra laundry basket and much weightier things like altering your schedule and going against the advice of family and friends.
The more I offer to help, the more people actually respond. While I can so easily wear self-sufficiency like a badge of honor, God has delicately woven people into my life who embody the courage and humility to ask and receive help.
I watch, listen, and learn from every single one of them.
They remind me of this simple truth— we’re made for each other. It’s part of God’s design. There’s nothing holy about trying to do all things on our own without breaking a sweat. Instead, you bring your offering and I’ll bring mine and together we’ll serve, walk boldly, and let heaven come down.
So I said you’re welcome to stay in October, and she called in February.
She needed a place to unpack her things before packing them all up again. So I said yes, with as much enthusiasm and passion as I did back in October because it felt timely and necessary.
Not without fear and hesitation. Those feelings will always be there, we just can’t let them make our decisions for us. I looked at my husband and whispered, “Two months.” He gave a nod to say, “Sure, we can do two months.”
Two months turned to four as plans shifted and changed. A short-term stay turned into a long term need and signing up for things I hadn’t foreseen. It turned into unexpected concerns and hard conversations into realizing a suitcase holds a tiny fragment of someone’s baggage. So much goes unseen and thus misinterpreted. It’s a choice to lean into empathy when the wounds aren’t visible.
There are reasons we do the things we do, even if they make no sense to others.
You keep reminding yourself that your way isn’t the best way. But as time creeps on, you grow tired. You crave answers to questions you haven’t earned the right to know. And before you know it, resentment builds and eats away at the foundation and the whole house begins to shake.
I saw the best and worst come out of me that year. I saw grace and radical hospitality and I saw privilege and impatience. I saw wanting things to go a certain way and throwing a fit like a toddler when they didn’t.
After that year she decided it was time to move. The helper in me figured I had failed and that we had just spun around to the very beginning.
Why had I said those words in the first place?
It wasn’t until that car ride to the train station when I saw a glimpse of what the Holy Spirit had been trying to teach me all along. Why He had me sit in that place on a cloudy October day and say those weighty words, you’d be welcome to stay.
It was silent for the first ten minutes though again, the Holy Spirit hijacked the conversation. This time to say, “I’m sorry.” My voice got shaky as I tried to apologize for the times I hadn’t actually lived out the words you’d be welcome here. I honestly can’t remember all the details but what I do recall is learning a hard lesson in swallowing my pride and naming the places I fell short.
What I wanted her to know was how much I loved and cared for her but sometimes, had a really poor way of showing it. Practice for when I become a mom one day.
In the beginning, as I prepared the room and made her bed and cleaned out the closet, I thought I was the generous one. I figured we were making a sacrifice. And in some small way, maybe we did.
But truly, her grace toward my weaknesses was generous. Because to fix and patch deep wounds wasn’t my job. That wasn’t coming from love, rather me trying to change her into a person that I’d understand and could make better. It was my own desire for order and balance and resolutions tied with a bow.
It’s only now, two years later that I’m able to see how I learned the true meaning of generosity. How it’s so much more than welcoming in; it is extending mercy. It’s freely giving without expecting anything in return. It’s a willingness to remain for the long haul when others walk out. It’s saying what we mean and meaning what we say.
And it’s our obedience to show up and fight for those on the margins, those aching to be seen and loved and welcomed in just as they are.