It’s a wonderful thing to step into a place someone else has prepared for you.
Last night, it was my pleasure to help celebrate the release of Shawn Smucker’s beautiful new novel Light From Distant Stars. I read from my own recent book Placemaker, Shawn read the first few evocative pages of his novel, and we shared a conversation about life and death, gardens and stories.
But conversations like that, and gatherings like this one, don’t occur in a vacuum.
They are embodied, and they happen in some place. Our conversation was richer because we were in a particular art gallery in a particular performing arts building in a particular small city all nestled within the beautifully tended green hills and rolling fields of Pennsylvania.
We gathered with friends, family, and readers within places that have been nurtured and kept.
The art gallery has been made by artist and publisher Ned Bustard, it was filled with summer flowers by his wife, tables were spread with food and drinks, and the whole event was made more meaningful because it was sponsored by The Row House, a community that is tending a flourishing space at the intersection of culture and faith.
I think many of us want more. We want more beauty, more good books, more quality time with our friends and neighbors. We want more thought-provoking conversations, more knowledge, more opportunities to witness the relevance of, to use the words of Tom Becker at The Row House, an “ancient faith” for “current culture.”
All of this wanting can be wrapped up in a single desire because ultimately what we want is more God.
Recently, I was reading about the incarnation and remembering Mary’s trusting “yes” when confronted by the angel and his strange news. I was reminded that our gracious, loving God does not rush in but waits for our own invitation. As the voice of the Christ says in Revelation,
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
What could be better than to sit and eat, to talk, to feast, with the Love at the center of everything?
Yet Christ waits for us to open the door.
Christ waits for our own invitation.
I was raised in a faith tradition with one way of imagining that invitation. Opening the door to the One who knocks meant praying a particular prayer. It meant asking Jesus into your heart.
It’s a beautiful metaphor, and prayer is powerful, but I’ve come to realize just how many different ways there are to offer an invitation to God.
There are so many ways to say, God, come dwell in this place.
We can tend a garden. Write a book. Cook a meal.
We can host a lecture series, make art, study Scripture, read the wise words of others.
We can sell books in a way that is rooted in a place and a community, as they do at Hearts and Minds Books.
There are so many ways to prepare a place for the Love that is always knocking on the door.
There are so many ways to say, “Come in. We have been waiting for You.”