A Home That Says Welcome
by Jen Schmidt
I don’t know if anyone’s ever fully prepared for the delicate and trying balancing act of launching our children into adulthood. As moms, we spend the first eighteen years of our kids’ lives bouncing between daily, mundane mothering tasks and attempting to lay for them a solid spiritual, emotional, and social foundation. Then in the largest feat of parental surrender, we step back, release control, and give them the necessary space to spread their wings . . . solo.
When our firstborn, our truth teller, was nearing that stage himself, he repeatedly let it be known he couldn’t wait to be out of our house and on his own. So I gave him a lot of space. But not too many weeks after we’d dropped him off at college many hours from home, the phone calls started coming. Each one more often. Each one more honest.
“Mom, I just want to come home,” he finally came out and said. What, did he need money already? Was he not getting along with his roommate? Was he being the protective big brother checking in on his little sisters?
No, that wasn’t it, or at least not all of it. But as the calls continued, it hit me. He wanted to hear our voices. He ached for a piece of home. And in our last phone conversation before he came home for fall break, even more of it came out. His words revealed a raw and rare vulnerability, one I hadn’t expected from our extremely-confident-on-the-surface, can-always-do-it-alone guy.
“Mom, I need to tell you something.” His voice cracked a little as he paused to gather his thoughts. “I know I was super cocky about this whole transition thing. I didn’t think I’d have a difficult adjustment, and I never thought I’d struggle with homesickness at all. But it’s been a challenging semester. And I just want you to know, I can’t wait to get home. My soul needs it, and I’m so excited to be with you guys.”
Ahhh. (Thank you.)
I’ll never forget that call. Summed up in a few short sentences was a gift every parent desires. This moment marked so much more than a child eagerly anticipating a home-cooked meal. It marked a heart softening to the Holy Spirit and years of answered prayer for my husband and me, standing in the gap on behalf of our children. Even with an imperfect home filled with sinful parents and siblings, unmade beds, cluttered closets, and leftovers in the fridge, he knew our home represented a refuge, a spiritual center, a place to belong. He knew it reflected a tiny glimmer of God’s character, a place that symbolizes welcome, where life is renewed, hope is restored, and a feast of life awaits. It took his being separated from everything he’d ever known to fully appreciate the welcoming hospitality of it, but our son—bless his heart, as we say in the South—just wanted to come home! My momma’s heart explodes when I swing open the doors with a “Welcome home” to our precious children.
There’s something incredibly unique about the concept of home. We know it’s not about the building or structure. It’s bigger than that. No matter our past wounds, no matter our poor decisions, no matter our previous family history, a longing is knitted into every single one of us to find a place to call home. This is not something earmarked for believers alone; it’s a common denominator that everyone senses, even if they struggle to put a name on it—which is why, as people saved by grace, we want to create an atmosphere that says “welcome” to all. Pointing others toward home is truly the heart of our most important ministry.
But . . .
The best invitation we can ever offer to anyone is to those who share our lives on a daily basis, the loved ones right in our home and family. That’s where the truest form of hospitality begins. Our spouse and kids, those we do life with day-to-day, are our closest neighbors, and our priority must begin with them before we think of extending ministry to others. Our hearts are made for home. And we must make it a safe landing place where our children will always want to return. And be welcomed.
Excerpted with permission from Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.
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