When I read fiction, it is almost always YA – books written for young adults or the intermediate grades – 4th, 5th and 6th. I have a few favorite authors: Sharon Creech, Richard Peck, Ann Heywood Leal, and now, Andi Cumbo-Lloyd.
She wrote Steele Secrets, the story of an 11th-grade girl’s crusade to preserve a cemetery in which the bodies of enslaved people had been buried. Andi has a soft heart for these people. She knows a lot about them. And she writes and speaks of them often. (She also edits and coaches. Please, check out her writing and other services.)
The protagonist of Steele Secrets, Mary Steele, was born after her father died. So what she knows of him has been told to her – hundreds of beautiful times – by her mother, Elaine…
He worked down at the plant during the day…and after work, he tutored…kids. He told her he’d grown up poor and that school was very hard for him… so he thought he might help these kids get just a little bit more ahead of where he was so that they could do more than work in a factory line if they wanted.
Elaine went on. “If I hadn’t already been falling in love with him, I would have when he said, ‘if they wanted.’ He wasn’t out to change the world, or make anybody live the way he thought they should. He just wanted to prop open a few more doors for these kids if they wanted to walk through them.“
I read that four times. I put it down. I read it again.
He wasn’t out to change the world, or make anybody live the way he thought they should.
Good golly, Miss Molly.
Did anyone else step back a few when they read that? Aren’t we supposed to change the world?
Is it up to us/me to do everything humanly possible to make anyone live the way I think they should?
Okay, yes. When it comes to bringing up children, it’s a whole different story and holy calling. We are commissioned to raise them up in Jesus and set them off in His direction. On purpose. With conviction. At some point, they will make their own life decisions. And we can only pray and trust that we did the best we could.
But that guy down the street with a big ol’ yard sign for that other person? The woman who comes to church with her partner? The unmarried couple who lives in the apartment across the hall? The married co-worker who is just a little too friendly with the lady in accounting? The man who enjoys a cocktail or too many before dinner?
No, I don’t think so. Changing other people is way above our pay grade.
What we are asked to do, however, is prop open as many doors as we can that lead to Jesus. Slather on the love. Show respect to those who disagree. Respond to condescending remarks with interest and a willingness to listen. Get to know people. Rub shoulders and have lunch with those who look or talk or believe differently. Don’t expect comfort and a custom fit in an off-the-rack world.
Mary Steele’s dad took time to work with kids so they “could do more than work in a factory line if they wanted.” We all need to come to grips with the harsh realities of a world that will hate us. Some people, no matter how we pray or how we love will not walk through the door. Some of them won’t even face the door. Some won’t acknowledge that there is a door at all.
Even if there’s a party on the other side – a party just for them – they will not walk through because they don’t want to.
It’s hard to accept that I cannot bring someone into Heaven with me kicking and screaming. But I can’t. They gotta wanna.
But I can have hope. And I can pray that I’ve made those doors open so wide, with so much of Jesus that they just can’t help themselves. I want to be that girl. The Welcome Wagon Lady. The quintessential concierge. The very best version of me.
I want to carry door stops with me all the time, in every bag, purse and pocket. So at a moment’s notice I can prop open that one door, letting him or her or you or them choose to walk right into the waiting arms of Jesus.