When I was first married I read the book, “The Things You’ll See” by Larry Lucas. I haven’t read it since, but 15 years later and it still sticks. The author talked about how we should keep our children close. How we should know what they are doing, and who they are doing it with. But we shouldn’t accomplish this by breathing down their necks, but by creating the kind of home where children want to be and where their friends want to be as well. The kind of home where children are welcome.
I’m pretty sure it’s not as noisy in theory.
Our old house was on a busy street with no real sense of neighborhood, with only one neighbor kid. Now we live on a dead end street, where we know everyone and everyone knows us. The children leave their tricycles parked in the middle of the road and no one ever shuts the front door. There are four neighbor girls to add to my four, plus my two boys and that makes ten. Which is a mob, truly. I was thinking the other day how different things might be if I had never read that book, all those years ago. Sometimes my instinct is to hide behind the door and say, “No, this isn’t a good day to come over.” But I can’t help but be convicted. I open the door. I look them in the eyes and I greet them. I ask them how school was. Sometimes I tease them. I compliment them on their shoes. And I let them in.
It turns out that the thing the girls love the most is my kitchen. I make a point now to buy baking mixes every week. I can throw those at them and run. Last week Jael and her friend were working on their grocery list because they plan on making cream puffs next week. Even though it’s crazy, I can’t help but be glad when kids show initiative. If they come up with it, the least I can do is say yes. Sometimes I say it through my teeth. Like when I’m making dinner and they’re all jockeying over who gets to roll the naan. Fortunately, I have four rolling pins and nerves of steel.
I remember the first time friends were still over when it was time for dinner. I thought of telling them it was time to go home, and then I remembered how much the open tables of my childhood meant to me. It suddenly dawned on me that I never wanted to send anyone away from our table. If they’re still here when we’re eating, they’re invited. Open doors, open tables, open hearts. They all kind of go together. Food represents home. It’s hospitality, warmth, comfort, blessing. It draws people. Messy people.
The disciples knew what was up, and told them all to go outside and play. Because that is the sensible thing to do. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.” And those, my friend, are fighting words.