An excerpt from The Shack:
“…the door flew open, and he was looking into the face of a large beaming African-American woman.
“Instinctively he jumped back, but he was too slow. With speed that belied her size, she crossed the distance between them and engulfed him in her arms, lifting him clear off his feet and spinning him around like a little child. And all the while she was shouting his name – “Mackenzie Allen Phillips” – with the ardor of someone seeing a long-lost and deeply-loved relative. She finally put him back on earth and, with her hands on his shoulders, pushed him back as if to get a good look at him.
“’Mack, look at you!’ she fairly exploded. ‘Here you are, and so grown up. I have really been looking forward to seeing you face to face. It is so wonderful to have you here with us. My, my, my how I do love you!’ And with that she wrapped herself around him again.”
“My, my, my how I do love you!” Indeed. We learn in the pages of this book that God is “particularly fond of” all God’s children. No, of each single one of God’s children. Particularly fond of each of us, is God, because each of us is a particular person.
Back to my previous note, which promises that God keeps each one of each of our bones. That’s a lot of bones! And there are a lot of people for God to be particularly fond of, eh? Are we really that different, that God can have a particular fondness for each of us? I know we’re each unique, but I’m fairly similar to a lot of the people I’m with day in and day out. It is astounding to me that God can be particularly fond of me. It is overwhelmingly warming, actually.
We know how God demonstrated God’s love for us, don’t we? God sent Jesus – God’s son – to DIE for us as a demonstration of God’s love for us. When we think about this in context of God having a particular love for each one of us, isn’t it more obvious than ever that Jesus died for you? Not for us, or y’all, but for you? For me? God’s particular fondness of me means Jesus sacrificed His life for me.
None of that is why I decided to type today, though. For those of you who haven’t read The Shack, the African American lady in the quote above is God “the Father.” Now, no matter how you feel about God being portrayed as a woman (the author has darn good reasons for it in the story), just go with it for a second and think about how GOD greets God’s child. God’s been watching Mack the whole time. God’s seen Mack every step of the way. God’s even received some communication from Mack here and there. It’s not like they’ve never met, or that God hasn’t actually seen Mack in a long time. But God is so particularly fond of Mack that God is literally exuberantly welcoming to Mack, God’s friend and God’s child.
And isn’t it appropriate? After all, isn’t God perfect? God holds no ill-will for Mack’s ignorance or ignoring of God’s will in Mack’s life. It is perfectly natural – literally – for God to greet God’s child this way. … There’s no way we should be expected to do the same! We’re NOT perfect – far from it. We don’t necessarily have a particular fondness of many of the people we encounter each day. It’s not natural at all for us to greet people this way unless they are near and dear. BUT! We always greet those who are near and dear this way, right? Those people who are truly valuable to us? Those people who we know share our love for God and Christ? We always greet our loving brothers and sisters with exuberance and joy, right?
Verily I say unto you, we are TERRIBLE at letting our brothers and sisters know through our welcoming of them into our lives (and our businesses and our homes and our conversations) that we are even so much as enthused, much less exuberant, about their appearance.
Speaker Andy Andrews addresses this in a presentation. Andrews is the author of The Traveler’s Gift, which is a book on my to-read list but I haven’t read it yet. He says that for the vast majority of the people we encounter day in and day out, it has been years since the people in their lives – coworkers, clients, customers, vendors, even family – were outwardly enthusiastic that they were in the room. Now, I am an exception to that rule (I’d bet that many working parents of young children are exceptions to that rule, but not all). Because when I get home from work, as often as not, I am greeted with absolute exuberance by my three kids.
And it feels really, really good.
I can’t yell “Daddy! Daddy!” and run to each person I meet throughout the day and jump into their arms and laugh and say how glad am they’re home. But I can be enthusiastic and exuberant when I see people of whom I am particularly fond. I can let them know they’re valuable to me by my greeting or welcome of them. I can be genuine, and not skip this step, and not take it for granted that they know I know they know I know they know.
And you can too.
Think about it. If you’ve ever been greeted in this way, go back to it in your mind. Think about how great it feels. How affirming it is. How much value it adds to you. How much esteem it gives you for yourself. And ask yourself, “Isn’t it worth it for me to make others feel great? To affirm others? To give value to others? To offer them a touch of self-esteem?
Let’s all try to do that for others every day. I’d be willing to bet my life that if we each did it 5 times a day for people who don’t expect it, eventually they’d start doing it too, and the people they do it for would do it too, and eventually someone the person I greeted knows will know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows someone….
Whose life right then, in that moment, on that day, because of all the crap they’re going through, is dependent on someone greeting them warmly and offering a touch of encouragement.
That’s powerful, and that’s God’s will for you and for me. Let’s get out there and do it.