That’s a word I have said hundreds of times in my life. But I have never thought about it as much as these last few days.
To some extent you can control your home environment. There probably aren’t armed attackers hiding behind the sofa or toxic waste dribbling from beneath the sink (well, most of the time). So when I utter the words “Welcome” to guests as they come through my front door, I do it with some level of confidence that they will not be hurt in a major way during the course of the evening. Of course that is provided my Irish sarcasm hasn’t tipped over into maligning their good character.
The same can be true when you welcome someone to a gathering. Be they pilates classes, cricket clubs, or churches, there is some level of control because these sort of places tend to have formal or informal rules of engagement. There is a certain type of behaviour that is vaguely expected and vaguely predictable. There is a desire to recruit that means most folks will be kind to the new kid on the block, so again your welcome can come with some level of confidence.
But I am discovering more and more that I can’t control the world. I can’t even control little bits of it. Whether it is my spinal column, my bank account, the England cricket team, or my marriage, there is precious little I am in control of. Without that control which we love to exert on our homes, or workplaces, or our social gatherings, we can start to ‘lose it’. Which would be fine if the world was a perfect place, but there is a lot about this world that is pretty shocking. In fact I write about a lot of it. I tell stories of greed, injustice and oppression in an attempt to shake myself and others out of our complacency. But still I cannot control it, whether it’s Syria, banking, gangs, or the sexualisation of childhood.
So how can I possibly welcome anyone into this world? (At time of writing baby is 6 days overdue!) How can I welcome someone into a world I cannot control for me, never mind them? How can I welcome them when I know this world may hurt them badly? Is a welcome really a welcome, if it comes with a disclaimer? Is a welcome really a welcome if it involves a checklist of rooms you shouldn’t visit? Surely my job is to keep them safe, and our modern world renders that almost impossible?
But this is what Jen and I are about to do. Welcome a little one into the world. And I know that this world is full of majesty and wonder as well as decay and selfishness. In fact I have been acclimatized to that reality for quite some time. The beauty weaves itself in the midst of the pain. But this season, like for so many who have gone before us on the journey of parenthood, brings that juxtaposition into sharp focus and leaves me wondering why I can utter those words of welcome.
There is blind optimism. But that will fade.
There is statistical sanctuary (because the chances are that they won’t get cancer or hit by a train). But they might.
There is pragmatism (which says ‘hey this is just the reality of life’). But I don’t believe we were made for averaged out, win-some-lose-some, mediocrity.
Then there is something else. It’s a story that includes a welcome to an adventure. It’s not a welcome to a consumerist life, basing your mood on counting up the good things and the bad things that happen to you. It’s a welcome to a groaning world that is being redeemed, renewed, and reconciled to its creator. And incredibly there is a welcome that is extended to our little one to not just watch, but be part of that process. It’s a welcome to be part of seeing this broken world made whole. It won’t always be safe but it’s a welcome to the biggest privilege of all. The chance to experience the heart of God as it breaks for a broken world.
And now I think of it, there is no way they could do that from the safety of the womb.
So bring it on…
(Photo via Kerry Morrison on flickr)