My children are organizationally challenged. More bluntly, they are slobs. As the father of three growing boys, I have learned that only the daily threat of bodily harm keeps these boys reasonably clean and our home one step away from becoming a pig sty. Left to themselves they would wear their same favorite, unwashed shirt for a month, inches of rust would gather behind their ears, and mold would grow on their teeth. And spontaneously cleaning their rooms? Forget about it. They simply do not care about orderliness, sanitation, or hygiene. If you don’t believe me, come have a cup of coffee with me some morning and watch them leave for school. They head out the door with their pencils, lunch money, and supplies dropping from their hands, pockets, and backpacks like scattering birdseed. And their notebooks look like a three-ringed junk yards.
Notes, homework assignments, flyers from the book fair, old report cards: All this scrap and crap is hanging out everywhere. I wish they were more organized. I wish they would take the time to clean up themselves and their notebooks. Yet, they are eager, excellent students, so I have to learn to set aside some of my obsessive-compulsive disorder and “cleanliness is next to godliness” proverbs and just help them where I can. Besides, I would rather have them be willing and curious but cluttered students than orderly and tidy slackers.
The same can be said about those who seek a relationship with Christ. Not all these seekers can be found inside the church or at the regular scheduled time of weekend worship. This doesn’t mean there is no value to what happens in our houses of worship on Sunday (or whatever day one gathers), or that gathering in community isn’t important. It simply means that some very sincere seekers of Jesus may not come to us wearing their Sunday finest and polished wingtips. They may not have a big, red, memorized Bible tucked neatly beneath their arm. They may not have all their beliefs hammered out. On the contrary they may be confused, conflicted, or plain clueless when it comes to life and their beliefs. Their personal, relational, and family lives may be a disastrous mess (with scrap and crap everywhere). They may be rusty and moldy in places. But this doesn’t mean these folks aren’t on the path or that God isn’t very busy in their lives.
Artist Andy Gray wrote a parable about a little boy who once stumbled upon a mysterious open door. In Narnia-like fashion he entered to discover a beautiful garden inside, and in the midst of the garden, a great table heavy with a hearty feast. People were gathering to eat and celebrate. In the crowd the child saw a man with a warm smile and inviting eyes standing at the head of the table. The boy wondered aloud, “Who is he?” The nearest guest answered, “He is the host of this feast. He opened the door and invited us in. He loves us.” The boy’s eyes brightened and he moved toward the host. But the guest stopped the child and said, “If you do not know his name or the story of how he opened this door, you cannot be here. You must leave.” The child was undeterred. He failed to hear the other guest’s prohibition because he was drawn overwhelmingly to the feast table and the man of the garden. He moved forward and extended his hand and his eyes met the host’s. There was an immediate, joyful recognition. Meanwhile, the guest stayed to stand guard by the open door.
Isn’t it obvious which of them really knew the host? The more we understand Jesus, the more we must realize that people encounter him all the time, and all over the place, even before they realize who he is or how to call his name. They hunger for, and we pray for, that moment of recognition. And when it comes, we rejoice that God has rewarded another child who has come diligently seeking.