“Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” John 4:29
Once upon a time, I lived with an open door policy. I never knew when my husband would invite someone for dinner, or give me a moment’s notice that a colleague or client needed to stop by. I kept the pantry stocked so I could put together refreshments in minutes. It was fun to shop for flowers and place settings and to pour over cookbooks, looking for new ideas. And I always felt a sense of accomplishment when the house sparkled, a trait I inherited from my mother.
I admit that it has taken a long time for me to release my self-imposed pressure to be “perfect,” whatever that is, and to stop planning my days around hosting duties. I have chronic illness to thank for this freedom.
I remember when my health challenges first intensified. I panicked because pain, mobility issues, and chronic illness jeopardized my love of entertaining. I didn’t have the strength or energy to prep the house, prepare a meal, accommodate guests, and clean up afterward. And when I needed to make drastic changes in my diet, I lost the desire to try out new recipes with my husband and children.
Even though I understood why I had to give up something I loved, I hated that another area of my life had started to shrink because of my unpredictable medical issues. Some days I felt isolated. Other days I felt closed in. But, I was surprised that there were also days when I experienced joy and peace because I didn’t have a schedule to keep or obligations to meet.
As I learned to live within the new limits, I began to experience a refreshed and renewed feeling of peace. I stopped struggling to do things that were beyond my ability and concentrated on the things I could manage. I learned how to relax.
I thank my oldest sister for helping me in this area. Our children are close in age and she liked to come over so they could play. She understood my limits and didn’t care that I had to make drastic changes in my lifestyle.
“I never want to leave because it’s so relaxing here. I feel at peace,” she told me one time.
I thought she felt that way because we always had our shoes off, let the kids wear themselves out playing and running as loudly as they wanted to. They were free to be themselves without hearing, “You can’t go in there.” “Don’t touch that.” “You’re being too loud.” Whenever she visited, I always ordered pizza, so we could hang out and catch up while the kids played. I never went out of my way to prep the house or agonize over what to serve. I was at ease before, during, and after her visits.
Since that time, it has become increasingly easy for me to withdraw from social interactions. Especially at home, the one place I think of as my sanctuary. The only place I’m totally relaxed. I want to keep it that way, but each time someone pops in, they always quiz me about my daily struggles. Even if they tell me they admire my determination to keep trusting God each day, I feel judged or pitied, and rarely accepted, as I am, in my present condition.
With every visit, the conversation eventually turns to my health. Even when I try to change the subject, they steer it back to my chronic pain and illness. It frustrates me and I want them to leave. Knowing that I will have to talk about my health steals my peace and ruins my desire to welcome visitors.
I know I need to find a way to reconcile the two parts of myself – the half that welcomes and enjoys visitors and the part that shies away from being examined. Even though I’m making progress, my husband regularly challenges me to stretch myself and to try to look at my situation from a different perspective.
His concern makes me wonder why I let illness steal my confidence. Why is it so hard to just loosen up and enjoy whoever comes through our door? Can I ever get it back? So, I pray and ask God to help me deal with these issues.
My attitude about spending large amounts of time at home has improved. My children helped me navigate social media to feel connected without being pressured. I also found different ways to reach out to family and friends – sometimes expressing my love for them by making phone calls, sending cards and small gifts in the mail, and occasionally, making handcrafted presents.
In today’s scripture passage (John 4), the Samaritan woman inspires me and fascinates me. Everyone in her community knows who she is and knows about her living arrangement. Most likely, she’s shunned and avoided. However, after her conversation with Jesus, she doesn’t care about the ridicule or scorn, the judgment or skepticism. She doesn’t stop to think about what they might say or how they could react. She puts aside any self-consciousness because of her excitement about Jesus.
She doesn’t debate or try to prove a point. She simply issues an invitation to “Come, see” (John 4:29). She leaves it up to the others to meet Jesus, listen to Him, and determine for themselves if He is the promised Messiah.
Shouldn’t that be my attitude and viewpoint, too? To let go of how I might look, so that Christ can be seen? To stop worrying about what someone is thinking or might say? To stop trying to judge their motives because only God is able to discern what’s in our hearts?
I need to develop a “come and see attitude” for everyone in my life. To share with them the way Christ is changing me and strengthening me and equipping me to endure. I’m trying. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m slowly learning to feel at ease with the questions and the curiosity.
Being willing to let others in and remaining open to their questions has led to intense conversations about faith, God, and learning to live life without having all the answers. God has been using these people to help me understand that it is never about the food or place settings or flowers, but about the relationships.
Isn’t that what He desires most from all of us? A true relationship?
In today’s scripture passage, the openness and welcome in the simple phrase of, “Come and see,” demonstrates what can happen when we have an inviting attitude.
I know I’m guilty of not always wanting to have the type of attitude that encourages others to want to know how Jesus has transformed my life. But lately, I’m learning to loosen up and not worry so much about how the house looks or what I can offer someone to eat. In the long run, none of that matters anyway. Instead, I’m trusting God to replace my weaknesses with His strength.
I hope everyone I meet notices there’s something different about me, something that will give me an opportunity to tell them about Jesus.
Prayer: Lord, use us as catalysts to stir up those around us. Let Your transforming power and redeeming love change the lives of the people we encounter.