"Can I have a sleepover?"
Those are words that are sweet to my ears. To me, they mean that one of my grandsons next door knows that his Mommy'sMum's house, just down the laneway, is a welcome place for him, a place he feels safe enough to sleep over at without his parents being in the same house.
I decided a long time ago that I wanted our home to be a "haven" to our grandchildren. I wanted to cultivate a place where each one felt safe to be exactly who God made them to be, where they could be comfortable in their own skin because everyone around them is comfortable with them too. I wanted it to be a place free from criticism, where they always felt like they were understood, or at least a serious attempt was being made to hear and to understand.
I'm not sure I've always succeeded with that ideal, but sometimes I think we've come close. Like this morning...
Mike and Beth (the parents of those boys next door) are borrowing our camper for two weeks later this month for a family vacation to P.E.I. Before heading east, they felt it prudent to spend some time getting comfortable, not only driving with a trailer behind them, but also getting familiar with putting it up and down and getting the boys accustomed to sleeping in it. So last night they came to get the trailer, drove it around the block a few times and then parked it down the laneway at a spot in their yard about halfway between the two houses, where they went about learning to set it up.
Anticipation was high amidst the boys, and the excitement was difficult for each of them to contain. Before long the tent was ready and the boys were making trips back and forth to the house to brush their teeth, get pyjamas on, and bring out their sleeping bags.
I must admit I was surprised when Mikey, at the last minute said, "Mommy'sMum, can I have a sleepover?" My goal is to never say "no" to those kids - at least not unless I have a very good reason. What kind of a "haven" would it be, if you couldn't count on being accepted in? And Mikey, who will be nine in September, has proven himself to be very responsible and easy to have around. He knows the house rules and he keeps them very diligently. (There are only four: "No food out of the kitchen", "no fighting or you go home", "speak to your grandparents with respect", and "clean up your own messes". Sweet and simple. It wasn't hard to say, "Sure - if it's okay with your Mom and Dad."
A few minutes later we were cuddled up on the couch together, with Mikey peering over my shoulder as I opened the last emails of the day on my laptop and checked into Facebook. He became heavier and heavier as he leaned into my right arm, and before long, he was fast asleep. I extracted myself and tucked a pillow under his head and a comforter around his little body before going upstairs to bed myself.
This morning I woke up early. Mikey was still asleep on the couch as I gathered my things and prepared to leave the house in time to keep an 8:30 appointment. At the last minute it dawned on me that I should go in to tell him that I was on my way so he woulddn't wake up and wonder if I was still there or not.
I leaned over the couch and tousled those golden curls. Mikey looks like an angel - but he's not, if you get my drift. It's hard to tell that, though when he's sleeping. As I gazed down at him, my heart turned within me, as it always does, and once again, as always, I was filled with pure love.
Mikey was sound asleep and had a hard time responding to my voice. "I'm leaving for work now, buddy. When you wake up, Auntie Jorie and Uncle Dave are here. You can crawl in with one of them, or go out to the tent where your dad is." I kissed him on the forehead as he squirmed, and yawned, and wriggled himself into semi conciousness. He nodded his head and shook himself from head to toe, even though his eyes were still closed. As I stood up to leave, he suddenly opened his eyes and sat up, holding both arms out wide.
"Big hug before you go." he said. There was no question in his mind but there would be a response on my part, and he was absolutely right, of course. We wrapped our arms around each other and hugged - hard. I tucked him back in under the covers and headed for the door, filled with so much gratitude. It's hard to imagine how much joy just one child can bring to a grandmother's heart. And that all ten of my grandchildren live within ten minutes of my house, and half of them right next door, is blessing beyond comprehension.
I was thinking as I left the house. I thought about how Mikey didn't sit up on the couch and list all the things he'd done wrong the day before and ask my forgiveness before he stretched out his arms to hug me. I wouldn't have wanted him to do that. In that moment, it was our relationship of love and mutual acceptance that was important, and that was all. That doesn't mean there isn't a time for correction on my part, and confession and asking for forgiveness on his, but I wouldn't want him to approach me all the time with complete awareness of his shortcomings that come between me and him.
I wonder if that is how God feels when I approach him. Instead of resting in his love and provision for me, and leaning into relationship (hugging him first), I have always tended to approach him with a profound sense of my shortcomings along with a long list of confessions. "Lord, I'm sorry about this, and please forgive me for that. And that. And this, and this, and that."
When Ron comes home from work at night, I don't ask him to please confess everything he might have done wrong today before we can talk. He knows he's "pre-forgiven". If he overspent some money, or forgot to mail a letter, or had some thoughts he shouldn't have, I don't want to hear about that first. I'm just glad he's home. I want a hug and I want to hear how his day is going. I want relationship. That doesn't mean that later on we won't need to talk something through and that there isn't a place for confession and forgiveness and growing in grace and forgiveness together. That's part of relationship too - but perhaps not what should come first.
Of late, as I have approached Father in the deepest silence of my heart, I have willed to come to him resting in his goodness, sure of the efficacy of his shed blood - with all my sin, weaknesses and short-coming covered by his shed blood. "It is finished", he said on the cross. My sin is dealt with.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there is no place or need to ask forgiveness and to repent, or, in repentance, to purposefully turn away from my ways in order to embrace His, but I am beginning to think that God would prefer us to come as we are, and then let him sort out the "stuff" later if there is any stuff to sort out.
I think that's a big key when it comes to silent communion with God. Accept his love and forgiveness at face value. Give your dad a hug. Receive one back. And leave the confession for at least another phase or two...
Life Through the Spirit
1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,[a] 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in sinful man,[d]