A group of eleven people that I didn't know came to my house last night. They were young (a youth group from Saint John) and just needed a place to spend the night. I thought, sure, how bad can that be? As I was praying for them that morning, I started envisioning our house being wrecked so I reminded myself that this place is really God's gift to us and it is for people to use, and asked him to take care of the details. I spent most of the afternoon cleaning and preparing the basement for their arrival.
The group arrived just after 9 pm and I went outside to direct them as to where they could park. They didn't really seem to be paying attention, so one car just drove up beside the garage and kept going. Oops!! I walked around the garage in order to ask them not to park on the lawn but it was too late. Normally, this would not have been a big deal, but it had been raining all day and the ground was very soft. This is also a new lawn that we had just seeded last fall so it is still pretty fragile and sparse. When I got to the car, there were a bunch of people trodding all over my baby lawn, the car's front wheels were spinning and throwing mud, and several people were pushing. I could see this was not going to turn out well. I asked everyone to get off the lawn that wasn't pushing the car, and after a few heaves, the car came out. My mouth dropped opened as I saw the deep gashes in the lawn that I had spent good money on and laboured hard over and I heard , "My Lord!" come out of my mouth.
Things did not improve as several muddy people tromped into my house with all their stuff. To their credit, they managed to leave most of the muck in the foyer and offered an apology for the lawn. We showed them the basement where they would be staying and left them to it as they were tired and heading to bed after a long drive. I had planned to feed them a light breakfast at 6:30 am but by the time I arose, they had all left.
I was not as upset as I could have been about the whole thing and God did give me grace to brush it aside as an accident and not obssess about it, but I have to admit that I did begrudge the clean-up I would have to do and wondered if I would invite the group back if they asked.
This morning as I was driving across the bridge on my way to French school, I was praying for the visiting youth group and asking God to encounter them in a meaningful way this weekend as they attended a youth conference in Toronto. I confessed that although my heart had been open when the kids arrived, I had pretty much shut them out after the unfortunate incident and though I was polite and hospitable, I did not want to spend much time with them. And as I drove over the bridge, this verse came into my mind: "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
God made a perfect world and along came a man and women and tore a huge hole in it. They wrecked what he had spent his best creative energy on. But while they were unreformed and immature world-wreckers, he loved them. Before they offered to fix anything, he loved them. While they were still muddy and unaware of the pain they had caused another, he loved them. While they continued to drag the filth into other places, he still loved them. He did not withdraw from them - he reached out to them. His primary desire was not for the world to return to its state of perfection and tidiness, but for the dirtied and sullied people to become clean and the friendship to be restored.
This grace is a big deal. And I don't have nearly enough of it. We have a lot of people through our home and just like real life, not everyone that passes through treats us or our home the way I think it should be treated. God does not remove us from all negative experiences or people - in fact we are to become mature as we encounter various situations and learn to respond like he responds and see what he sees. I am not saying that I should not be wise in whom I allow into my life and home, but when God allows something across my path, he does it for a reason and I want to learn the lesson.
So far, I know that grace goes way beyond tolerance and I am not there yet. Let grace become a bigger deal for me. And now I have to go clean up some mud...
Romans 5:8 But God shows and clearly proves His love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This photo of a gate with the MAKER imprint was taken a few years ago in Cambridge, Ontario.