I have plenty of half-past six friends. These are they, also known as mature, seasoned, prime-timer, but never call my friends over-the-hill because I will bet the last cow in the meadow that they don’t see it that way. For most, they’re somewhere between climbing mode or hanging out at the top and looking for the best view.
A few years ago, I hosted a retirement party at our house. Until then, the party themes were Cinderella, Spiderman, Bella Ballerina, and The Incredible Hulk (three times), just to name a few. We had piñatas stuffed with everything to stain, gunk, and rot your insides, and kid-friendly food like pig intestines stuffed with mechanically separated and processed meat (sorry, just keeping it real!)
Gigantic, blow-up bouncy houses, three-man belly-busting water-slide races, and one very daring and dangerous (don’t tell their parents) homemade Ninja Warrior course complete with a clothesline suspended from the treehouse to the actual house, which hovered conveniently over the swimming pool. But only accessible if you were one of the more agile ninjas courageous enough to leap from the side ledge of the swing-set and UP and THROUGH the window of the treehouse. We had only one minor causality, but she was the daughter of my best friend so we gave her an ice pack, fed her sugar, and told her not to tell. (Low point in parental judgment.)
My half-past six friends were, of course, served one-hundred percent pure pulled and sauced meat, vegetables prepared just so, and the use of real cutlery and drinkware that didn’t require them to learn how to twist, pull, push, or squeeze to take a refreshing sip. I tried to think through everything! My goal was to make them feel welcomed, wanted, and loved. My hope was that they would leave knowing they were important and that their presence, their being, was important to me and my family. And I thought I had all the pegs in all the right holes…until just at the end.
As everything was winding down, I remembered the three ladies who earlier had asked if it would be okay if they sat and ate inside instead of outside. And of course, yes! I went in to refresh their drinks, offer extra dessert, you know, all the niceties that make a good hostess. Honestly, these three particular ladies knew their way around a party. One, in her hay-day of hostessing, had a custom L-shaped serving table made so her guests could easily journey around the food she so meticulously had displayed for their pleasure. So you see, the baton was now in my hand and I wanted to get it right.
Here is where the story takes a turn.
We have an ultra-comfy, super soft, mammoth sectional sofa. (I really should use the word davenport to make my high-end gals proud). When my three seasoned friends asked to stay inside, I assumed they would find their way to the couch, shimmy in, and chat the afternoon away. Not so. They had taken three wooden chairs from the kitchen area and arranged them to create a quaint little sitting area with their backs completely against the television set. Who does that? I don’t know why, but it took me by surprise. The reasoning totally escaped me and went in and out of my thoughts just as quick as questioning the safety of that backyard ninja course.
As a mother of four homeschooled children, apparently, I do not sit on our couch often. I guess if I did, I would know exactly why my three friends chose not to sit as well. The cushions swallow you. Gulp you up and show no mercy. Sure, the children think it’s fabulous because it’s comfortable for them as they watch the shows they love. For the half-past six crowd? Are you kidding? It’s uncomfortable. It hurts their mid-to-lower back. They need help getting down AND getting up.
And I didn’t see it. Then it dawned on me. The effort it takes to feel comfortable and to adjust to what the younger kids enjoy makes them feel…well…not welcomed in a house fashioned to fit all who we say are welcomed.
It is a place they want to be because they love the people sitting around them but it might convince them to leave early or to not show up at all because nothing fits or feels comfortable, normal, or welcoming to them.
I want my house to be designed and framed so lovingly that newborns to great-grandpas can find a place to land. A couch, wooden chair, swing-set, or ninja course rope knot, the whole package for me and my friends.
I want my house to be a refuge for those who feel discarded, unworthy, made to feel too old to matter, or that they have no voice. I’ll move the furniture around myself if it matters most to them. I will serve hot dogs to beef bourguignon if it means that all who are under my roof feel welcomed, loved, and needed.
You can drag in every wooden chair from the other room if it makes you comfortable and convinces you to stay awhile.
And this one thought. I can’t get it out of my mind.
I wonder if God feels the same about His house.
Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (Deuteronomy 28:6, ESV)