I once walked into a travel agent's office and was greeted by the most mundane "welcome" sign I've ever seen. It was printed in gross Times New Romans font, italicized in an effort to emphasize that you're not welcomed, you're welcome! With mild skepticism I entered the building.
The lighting was stale.
The air smelled like old cats. Or cat people. Or people-loving cats.
Nothing about the atmosphere of the room made me want to get excited about the laminated posters of Fiji, Hawaii, and a dozen other destination locations. The travel agent wasn't rude. The sign didn't read "hey, eff you!" but the way I was welcomed into that building didn't invite me into a story or an adventure that was bigger than I was already living that day.
My friend Sommer is always the first person to greet me at church on Sunday mornings. She will hang out near our youth room until I get there to unlock it. Every week Sommer greets me with the fullness of the joy she is filled with.
We spend 15 minutes every Sunday morning catching up on each other's weeks, what our favorite show on TV was (I don't have TV....), and what we have coming up this week. There are Sundays when I think those 15 minutes are the most important 15 minutes of my day.
The way Sommer greets me reminds me every week of the story and the adventure that I'm invited, that we are invited, to live into with our lives.
The way we greet other people matters. At home. At school. At the grocery store. At church.
I once got to see a couple reunite in the airport after the spouse was returning from a tour of duty. I was sitting next to the women on the plane and all she could talk about was how excited she was to be reunited with her husband. She was leaking. Leaking is like a helium balloon that is filled to the brim, itching to soar. The joy she felt imagining the beautiful reunion was leaking out of her. When we made it off the plane I stayed close enough to watch her husband's face as she came down the escalator. His face immediately went from excited anticipation and great expectation, to pure joy. They were reunited. With zero regard for the people around them the couple ran to one another and embraced.
The way we greet one another at home. At school. At the grocery store. At church. - All of these things are a reflection of the Kingdom that we talk about all the time.
What good is it if we offer the most exciting, adventurous life ever, a life that is filled with serving the kingdom of God - and even have sweet color posters that talk about it - if we aren't living that out by the way we welcome people in?
I didn't book a flight that day at the travel agent's office because I wasn't given an invitation into a story that mattered.
That invitation starts with the way we greet.
Someday I'll die. So will you. I love to meditate on the images given to us in scripture of a new Heaven and a new earth. I love that someday people will be freed from the pain of death, life, or the bodies they currently live in. When I die, whether its tomorrow or when I'm 90, I'm excited to be welcomed in to the gates of Heaven by the love of the Father. That love welcomes His children with open arms. That love that has called us into the greatest adventure story of all time is the love that we will someday be greeted with.
Redemption. Restoration. Reconciliation. These things are what happens in the loving arms of the Father when we are fully welcomed in. All that is broken gets restored. God loves taking broken stuff and seeing it for what it could be.
We have a snapshot of that eternal redemption, restoration, and reconciliation when we greet one another with a love rich in reckless-abandon. There's no shame or fear of embarrassment when we allow ourselves to be filled with the Father's love. The father's love is perfect. The father's love is whole.
We can never be too much when we love with God's love.
We welcome with the fullness of God's love for us.
Christ in you is what leaks out. Christ in you is what invites others in with wild enthusiasm.
When we shift our paradigm to let this be how we welcome then it invites others into the same journey. It lets other people want to get on the plane and go somewhere with us. My hope is that we let 2015 be the year we throw off anything that holds us back from only greeting people with the pure, leaking, excited, passionate love of the father.