In the summer of 2008 I had the great pleasure of traveling to Kenya and spending a month in a Maasai village. Prior to our trip my friend Ryan and I had the opportunity to have dinner with a family from Kenya. As she was preparing the meal she told Ryan and I, “Now that you have been here, you are always welcome here anytime. You can stop by anytime that you desire.”
Her comment is one that goes against our American cultural norms. Showing up unannounced is simply seen as an inconvenience, impolite and abnormal. Ryan and I heard her words and took that advice with us to our trip to Kenya. One evening towards the end of our time there, our neighbors (who were our cooks) had invited us to their home. However, up to that point we had never taken them up on their offer. On our last evening there, we could hear individuals from their home worshipping together. Ryan and I looked at each other and said, “According to Rhoda we are welcome to come over at any time. Let’s do it.”
So, we went against our own American cultural norms and walked into our neighbor’s home. It was one of my favorite evenings of the trip. We were able to worship and study the word of God with our family in Christ. By simply showing up we were welcomed and embraced.
The idea of allowing ourselves to be open to welcome and embrace individuals at any moment is hard, especially through a Western cultural lens. Personally, I love the idea of one of my friends surprising me and coming over unannounced. On the other hand I like structure and routine and so when a neighbor in need suddenly needs my time unexpectedly I feel inconvenienced and bothered. I am not as eager to welcome them and embrace them as I should.
The struggle of having the time and energy to meet the needs of others is one we are all hopefully learning to embrace and understand. It was one that Christ himself knew first hand. In Mark 5, he is on the way to help Jairus’ sick daughter. As he was making his way to Jairus’ home he encountered a large crowd that was pressing all around him. Suddenly, Jesus realized that the “power had gone out from him.” A woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years had reached out and touched his robe believing that just touching him she would be healed.
Jesus was on his way. He had a miracle to accomplish. He had a plan, an agenda, and a destination in mind. Suddenly, he was interrupted once again by another person in need. I am sure Jesus was tired, worn-out and possibly slightly bothered that he had been interrupted; there was after all a girl on the brink of death waiting for him. He could have easily ignored the interruption (she was as we know immediately freed from her suffering). The bleeding woman had already been healed, but Christ stopped and sought out the woman who touched him. He took a time-out and gave the woman his attention.
One of my greatest struggles is learning to not feel bothered by these “interruptions”, but to embrace them as Christ embraced the bleeding woman. I desire people to see me as someone that they can call on in a time of need. My hope is that when others think of me they remember feeling welcomed, loved and embraced. Seeing and viewing interruptions as a blessed opportunity is a long and hard process. One thing I have also learned is that always embracing the interruption could also be harmful, because that individual may very well take advantage of you. However, if I was truthful that may just be my excuse to not be inconvenienced and to selfishly do with my own time as I please.
My prayer is this: that Jesus opens our hearts, minds, and our own agendas to show us how blessed we could be if we allow ourselves to be interrupted and to embrace each person as he embraced the bleeding woman.
About The Author
Heidi is the Executive Director of LYN House. She has been giving leadership and vision to the organization since she came on as staff six years ago. Heidi's heart and passion for the city sets the pace for the culture of the organization. Her experience in education and her educative work with seminary has equipped her well to be a part of this community.