Her hand tightened the grip and playfully shook the hand of her son, who held onto her with one hand while the other flapped briefly a little mid-air. He rocked back and forth from one leg to the other while looking anywhere but right at us. Tears welled up in her eyes as a flood of relief washed over her flushed face. "I've been looking for a place," she said. "For people who get it. For people who will really understand us." I told her I knew. There was a whole family of us in this place that knew. Two of the pastors personally knew. Several other families knew.
We all know.
She wasn't the only one that Sunday morning to cross the threshold of our church with a child with special needs in tow. Another couple was there, having met through the local therapy center which may as well be our church sponsor since we have so many ties there. He spoke with passion and an excited conviction about special needs ministry. How much this town needs this. How incredible it is to find a church community with such a community of special needs families. How they need a home.
Home is where the heart is, right? Home is the spaces of safe, sweet, fun, compassion, understanding—of knowing. How hard it is to find home when you've been without it for a while. How long has it been for them? How long has it been for you? How long since the faces of the people whose gaze you meet a couple times a week (or more) give you that filling feeling of home? How long since you've felt safe? Safe to bring your child without fear of "the look," or "the ssshhhs." or "the musn'ts."
Safe to let go and know—she's safe.
Safe to let go and show—it hurts.
Safe to let go and blow up a little—I can't take it anymore!
We sat together, spread out across a few tables, talking about the hard. The frustrating. The unsafe. The unsures. And that one sitting over there? Her jaw dropped. In total shock that here she sat for the very first time, surrounded by people she had no idea shared such a similar life. "Wait," she said, "You mean to tell me there are this many of us?" In that moment, she found friends.
"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one" ~ C.S. Lewis
Yes, there are this many of us. And we all know. We all want the safe. And the sweet, the fun, the compassion, the understanding. And at the absolutely most least, you will have that amongst us. But you'll have it out there too. In the typical pew-sitter. In the nursery worker down the hall. In the youth group teachers, and the people in the choir, and the choir director, and the senior pastor himself and ... You will have the safe. You'll have the sweet. And the fun and compassion. Not perfectly. We, all of us, are huge messes every week. But you'll have it because it's what we all want. It's the reason our hearts beat. And what we want, we give to others.
That's the thing about home. We all want it. We all want to feel safe, and warm, and accepted, and loved for who we and our children are. And what we want to feel, we often find ourselves giving to others. No, it's not always perfect. It's a home that's more lived-in than show-house. This home is where we live. It's where we breathe. It's where we sometimes feel like we're dying, but we get life breathed back into us. And sometimes we're the ones breathing life into others. It's where oxygen is grace and every beating heart beats as one.
Here? This home? It's Jesus. He is our safe. He is our sweet. He is our acceptance. He is our love. He is who loves us and our children through this whole big family we call "home." Yes, we make big messes of things, but He helps us clean it up. Yes, we get it wrong a lot, but He is our right. This home is a bit of a fixer-upper, but He is our carpenter. Our architect. Our fixer upper as high up as they go. He is what is making this home brand new, from the inside out. This home? It is what it is because it's what He creates in and through us.
Maybe you don't have a home like this. Maybe you're waiting, wading through the muck to find such a home as this. While you're waiting and wading though, can I exhort you to do something? Build it until you find it. Find another wader and build a home together. Build a place of safe. Of sweet and fun and loving and acceptance and grace. Necessity is the mother of invention. You need a home. If you can't find one, build one. Do life together until a suitable, livable, safe home is found. Until then, pray for one. Search for others waiting and wading through life. Because you? You're resilient. You do what you need to do to get stuff done every day. Don't neglect this stuff. This is the stuff dreams are made of. Dare to dream. Dare to dive deep with fellow sojourners in the world of special needs needing a place to call home.
And don't ever,
Homes like this? Homes with messy and hurting and real and Jesus as architect? They're the most beautiful homes in the neighborhood. And their doors are always open.