Yesterday, in a sermon, I heard of a young man who sought companionship and a sense of place among his peers in a youth group. He had all the classic symptoms of a child growing up in a broken home. Drugs caused his mother’s death and his father had been one of her “clients”. The boy is now battling his own addictions and in the hospital wondering “if anyone loves him” according to pastor’s story. That boy needs a haven.
It’s only one letter away from Heaven – leave out the “e”. I’m not talking about safe spaces filled with teddy bears and shared outrage at the unfairness of the world or the wrong headedness of someone else’s stance. No, I’m talking about something more lasting.
We all exude in our personalities characteristics that make us a haven for those who know us and/or love us. It’s a smile, an arm around the shoulder and warm bread from the oven. You know people like that. It makes your heart happy when you’re in their presence. How do we get to be like that? I’ve thought of a few ways.
Be choosy. About your words. I was recently called a bigot by someone I love very much. She’s young and just beginning her journey into the marketplace of ideas. I cannot even remember what we were discussing, but I knew my response to that charge would affect her. I simply sighed. No counter blows, no huffing and puffing and no yelling. I was tempted to tell her what the word she flung so easily at me meant. In my very old dictionary the first definition is, from the French, “mustachioed man”. Which I am not. But I hope the haven of my sigh will allow her to know that a few quickly flung words will be excused by the love we have for each other.
Pick a room. When I was a teenager that room was Mom’s bedroom. I’d come home from school and find her reading, pillows propped behind her, coffee cup on the side table. She always seemed happy to see me. I’d plop down and ask what she was reading. She’d tell me and explain the plot. I’d tell her about some good or bad thing that had happened that day or ask what was for supper. A brief, peaceful interlude that signaled all was well as evening approached.
My children and grandchildren love the haven of my kitchen. Hot coffee or a Capri Sun and something to go with it. Zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookies or a necessary conversation. Temporary respite. That room can be anywhere – even leaning on a counter at work comforting a co-worker. Two chairs next to each other at a dinner party. Anywhere. The more of a haven you are the more the comfort of your presence will be sought.
That boy who needs a haven? He might be next to you in line at the grocery store. Smile at him. That lonely old woman in the bed next to your sister’s at the hospital – ask if she’d like you to read to her. The grandchild who’s wailing over a lost love? Let them cry. Make them laugh. Excuse the foul language – just this once.
Be a haven. Be love. Bear the burden. It’s the Lord’s work and the world needs more of it. God bless you.
Image: Free Digital Photos