…and moved into the neighborhood
“And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
There is this story I tell. To my kids, to students, and as part of my story of what matters. I grew up outside the church in a family stuck in the muck of addictions and anger. When I was 15 some girls from school, urged on by a believing woman who chose to love me, tried to bring me into their circle. One day several of us went to Krissy’s house. There I sat, uncomfortable, an outsider to their laughter and confidence.
The phone rang. I could hear Krissy’s mother’s end of a conversation from the next room.
“Really? That’s big–what a hard decision! No, I don’t know what you should do. … Hmmm, I don’t know. But I’ll pray for you. Yes, the Lord cares about this. Let’s pray to know how to handle things. I’ll call you again tomorrow.”
The chatter, the giggles and teasing, my discomfort–all faded as I eavesdropped on that call. A mom who talked about God on the phone. A mom who prayed. A mom who thought prayer mattered, that Jesus might enter and show the way. In that moment my whole world changed.
My usual talking point for this story is that we never know what goes on behind the doors of another’s home, and we never know what profound impact our everyday actions of faith might have on lonely eavesdroppers in our homes.
“The Word became flesh” and moved to a new place. Jesus left his eternal home to make a temporary home in a place where no one knew him.
We find ourselves on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. After living seven years in the Middle East. Not by accident. We were drawn here, invited, we believe, by that same Word who moved to physical
Israel 2,000 years ago. Invited to purchase property and make space for people who seek solitude for prayer and re
st. We call it Spa for the Soul, and we moved here with intention.
But we soon understood that we also moved into a neighborhood, a community where no one had before encountered the Word enfleshed. As I write these lines the mosque singer sings and his call echoes above the wind over the hillside. It penetrates our office and our bedroom and wafts down to the sea below. Twelve days into advent and not a sign of Christmas anywhere.
We understood we’d moved into the neighborhood, so we schooled ourselves to listen and to love. From earliest days first one, and then a few more, and then others, called me Mommy. Their children call me babaanne or anneanne (father’s mother or mother’s mother) depending on which parent attached first. It surprised me. Still does. I looked for a cultural explanation, but found none. I listened to their stories and realized that many of these dear ones are distant from birth-family. Some have lost their parents. Others, well, there are stories from their growing-up years. All are met deeply by parental love.
Mother love. Attentive, accepting, forgiving. One who listens, treasures, helps, and on occasion is severe. One who takes time, who is interested. One who is present.
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:15-16)
Yes, we came with a purpose. But we also moved into a community. As the Word did 2,000 years ago. Incarnation. Jesus in human flesh. To make a home among these beloved ones, to invite them to our home, to let them hear us pray for them, to offer welcome to true and eternal homecoming.
And so in this season we light the advent candles and we put out a small nativity not too fragile to be played with. I prepare an old handmade cradle that we will put in the entryway so that we can tell of an overfull house with place found for just one more, the Gift who makes space and welcome for us all. The One who invites us home to live with him.
Jeri Bidinger spends her days in the Mediterranean village of Gökseki, just outside of Kaş, Turkey, caring for whoever God brings. She and her husband Curt have created a contemplative retreat center there that they call Spa for the Soul. Jeri is a retired attorney, former BSF teaching leader, and spiritual director. She posts from time to time at www.crackedoldpots.blogspot.com, and looks forward to the publication of her book on Biblical gender, the first book written for Albanian Christians to be formally published in Albania. The rest of her time is given over to language study, serving guests in one way or another, loving on the community, and enjoying her family.