We would see them occasionally, usually for the Sunday morning service, this ordinary seeming family of six. They would file into the pew looking rushed but happy. We rarely saw them for a midweek service and almost never on a Sunday night. Still a babe in my faith and yet I thought I knew them, judged that they must not be as dedicated as others, “occasional” Christians perhaps. To think that I, whose behind warmed a pew or seat most times the doors were open, would deem myself their judge and jury is a sad commentary on where my heart really was. Naive? Somewhat. “Religious”? Most definitely. Grace-filled? Not so much.
Over weeks and months I got somewhat familiar with this husband, wife and their brood of four but what little I knew about them, my perception of who they were was about to get tossed upside down and my heart forever changed. Through a series of events and an opportunity to use some writing skills, I sat my church attending behind down on their farmhouse sofa to interview this family and was instantly made as welcome as I have ever felt. The husband all smiles, the wife offering tea, the children all gathering as if I were someone of importance.
Small talk enabled me to get my bearings and before long I was asking less questions and just listening. Amazing what happens when you take time to get to know people, to listen, to find common ground, to discover… their hearts were in a far better place than mine.
This beautiful farming family talked of love for each other, love for their farmhands, love for God. They shared of the satisfaction that comes from hard work, of their volunteering of time and talents both inside and outside the church. And while my tea grew cold, my heart warmed.
They may have slipped in late for a Sunday service after they had worked harder that morning than most would all week. She may have went unnoticed during a midweek service due to the fact she was upstairs teaching a children’s class. They may have missed Sunday nights because Monday morning, for them, would begin in hours.
I am so grateful that this family loved me that day so many years ago, showed me hospitality, showered me with grace. They let me in, turned my skewed perception upside-down. The experience was greatly humbling, a necessary lesson that changed me, changed my heart, in a forever kind of way. And the grace I was given by them, by God, I can now give freely.
My perception: things are not always as they seem ~ sometimes they are way better.