Our front gate sounded like it was going to collapse beneath the pounding. The dogs howled. My blood pressure spiked. Now, who could that be?
I grabbed the key to the gate, slid on some shoes, and ran down our front steps. The visitor persisted in pounding.
“I’m coming,” I yelled.
I unlocked the door and pushed open the gate. There stood Diana and her husband Sully.
I admit, to my shame, that my stomach dropped.
Oh, no, I thought.
We weren’t expecting guests. We weren’t prepared in any way—mentally, emotionally, linguistically, or gastronomically.
I managed the customary greetings.
“Happy New Year! How are you? How’s your work? How’s your health? How are your children?”
I was stalling. I wanted to size up their intentions. Perhaps they just wanted to say a quick “hi” and tootle on down the street. Sully’s a taxi driver. The removable taxi sign still sat on top of their parked car. Maybe he had to go. Maybe I should call Laura to come out for a quick hello and goodbye right there on the sidewalk.
Deep down, however, I knew I had to invite them in. If they knocked on my door and I didn’t offer them tea and something to eat, I might as well slap them in the face.
I swallowed, formed the syllables, and somehow got the phrase out: “Won’t you come in?”
They followed me inside, and I pulled the gate closed behind us.
The distance between Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is over 6,300 miles. (For those of you who are of the metric persuasion, that’s almost 10,200 kilometers.) However you count it, it’s a really long way. In fact, I like to joke that you can’t go much farther around the globe in our direction before you find yourself heading back home.
Why, then, does it seem that the last six feet to our own front door is somehow longer than all those miles we travelled to get here? Really? We willingly moved 6,000 miles but somehow can’t find it within us to trudge those final few footsteps?
Yup. And I think I’m beginning to understand why that is. You see, loving people in general is a lot easier than loving a specific person. The mere thought of loving people gives you warm fuzzies. It can get you to pack up and move to the other side of the planet. Loving a specific person, on the other hand—boy, howdy, that can make you want to pull your hair out.
Serving people—that’s high and honorable. Serving the real life person right in front of you who drops by unannounced—um, I think I’ll just pretend I’m not home.
Sacrificing for the greater good—wow! Sign me up! Sacrificing for the good of that one coworker—I simply don’t have the time.
Yes, we’ve moved to a foreign country. Yes, it’s a really long way from where we used to live. However, I would argue that every time you take those final few footsteps out your front door and actually engage with the big ol’ messy world outside your little haven, you’re doing something that, in many ways, is much harder than moving twelve time zones away. It’s harder because you know full well what you’re stepping into. You know who you’re likely to encounter along the way. You’ve got a history with that one. You know how hard it will be to look that other one in the eye. What she said still stings. He just smells funny. And no one is signing up to read all your stories. All you did was go to work.
If you’ve ever read anything about Jesus, it might not surprise you to find that his Father has a vastly different perspective on the significance of any given human being’s actions. God’s not looking at how grandiose a person’s deeds are. He’s looking at how much faith the person had in him while he did those deeds—whether that deed was moving halfway around the world or simply walking out the front door.
God sees. God knows. He notices your two mites. He sees every time you open your front door to unannounced visitors. He notices each time you reach out across the void and shake that smelly guy’s hand. And great will be your reward, dear one. No one who offers a single cup of water to someone because they belong to Christ will lose his reward. And many people who cast out demons in Jesus name will one day be cast out from God’s presence forever. All that’s done in secret will be brought out into the light.
So join me in walking those final steps, the last steps, the really hard ones, the ones into the dull and dreary reality outside your front door—or perhaps to the cubicle next door—the place where no one will notice your sacrifice or the effort you had to put forth to reach it, the place not celebrated because its too normal and so “close.”
And remember, just like Peter stepping out of the boat and onto the waves, you won’t be alone. Jesus is waiting for you there. In fact, that’s Jesus pounding on your front gate. That’s Jesus sitting in the cubicle next door. That’s Jesus reaching out his dirty hand for a shake.
“As you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Won’t you open the door? Peak your head in? Take his hand?
He knows how hard it is. Much harder than loving “people” or serving “people” or sacrificing for “people.” It’s harder because it’s real.
But it’s worth it. He promised.
The following are the lyrics to “Little Things With Great Love,” part of the Porter’s Gate Worship Project, sung by Madison Cunningham
In the garden of our Savior, no flower grows unseen
His kindness rains like water on every humble seed
No simple act of mercy escapes His watchful eye
For there is One who loves me
His hand is over mine
In the kingdom of the heavens, no suff’ring is unknown
Each tear that falls is holy, each breaking heart a throne
There is a song of beauty on ev’ry weeping eye
For there is One who loves me
His heart, it breaks with mine
Oh, the deeds forgotten; oh, the works unseen
Every drink of water flowing graciously
Every tender mercy, You’re making glorious
This You have asked us
Do little things with great love
Little things with great love
At the table of our Savior, no mouth will go unfed
His children in the shadows stream in and raise their heads
Oh give us ears to hear them and give us eyes that see
For there is One who loves them
I am His hands and feet