It was a weird day. It was a tough day. It involved a funeral, but the deceased was not someone to whom I was close. The situation though, was utterly tragic and my heart wrenched for the family and close friends. I showed up to share in the suffering. Christmas was just a few days away and the stress of completing the mile long to-do list was mounting on top of the emotion of that miserable, rainy day. Hours later, after another Christmas activity was over, I went to speak to a friend who had also been at the funeral. I knew that she was grappling with her own feelings, so I simply went to give a hug, and, since I knew I wouldn’t see her again before the holiday, say “Merry Christmas” before departing. My hug was not reciprocated and instead of “Merry Christmas,” I was met with a rant about how she had already seen me that day and it was too much. A bit shocked and hurt, I backed off and stepped away. Then the anger and confusion started to flood in, filling the emotional canyon that the initial hurt had dug, and I retreated to the comfort of more accepting and predictable friends.
For the record, that friend and I are fine and still friends. There has always been room for grace, forgiveness, and understanding on both sides. And the friend is not really what this post is about, rather it is about the experience of that moment. I realized that the worst part of that experience was feeling unwelcome in my friend’s presence. It was a place where I went to receive warmth and acceptance, but instead was left shut out in the cold, wondering if maybe my personality is too much for anyone to tolerate. My reflections shifted and I wondered if I’d ever acted the same as my friend. Do people feel welcome in my presence? How often have I made another feel unwelcome and unworthy of my space and time? How have I grieved others?
Fortunately, Jesus is the friend who consistently and perfectly welcomes us into His presence. We need not worry about mood swings or whether or not He’s gotten enough sleep to deal with us today. We don’t have to worry about being too much for Him to handle. In Him, we are home. A good home provides love, safety, acceptance, and healthy boundaries. People were drawn to Jesus because He provided these things. The woman with the issue of blood approached Jesus cautiously (Mark 5:25-34). She was desperate for healing and knew that if she could just touch the garments of Jesus, she would be healed. He was in high demand with people pressing against Him from all sides. She knew that He was busy. She didn’t know how He would react. Weary from the years of pain and exhaustion of finances for medical treatments that never helped, she reached out from among the crowd. When He confronted her, she threw herself before Him out of fear.
Jesus didn’t respond in anger. He didn’t call her needy or tell her that she needed to give Him space. He affectionately called her “daughter.” He told her to “go in peace” and to “be healed.” He acknowledged her and showed her that she was safe with Him. Psalm 140:13 says, “Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your name; the upright shall dwell in Your presence.” Because of Jesus and His willingness to stand in the gap between God and us, we are made righteous. There is a place in God’s house for us. We can rest in knowing that His dwelling place is eternal. As we dwell in the comfort and peace of our Lord, let us be sure to extend that out to the world around us. May people feel welcome in our presence.