I’m a little Irish. I have freckles and naturally red hair, and I can go from zero to bitch in about 10 seconds flat. I’m more of a fighter than a lover, but in an effort to acquiesce to society, I’ve learned some degree of balance. Today I felt like a lit fuse, as if it were only a matter of time before I imploded. After a stressful day, I went home with an overwhelming sense of loneliness. I slammed the door as if it had deeply offended me, and I started to cry.
I heard a knock at the door. Clearly someone didn’t know I was two steps away from drop-kicking the next thing in my path.
And, as a responsible hermit, I ignored the knock.
The knock didn’t stop.
The person knocked a persistent rhythm until I finally went and hid by the window. The knocker obviously was not phased by my mood swings.
A teenaged girl stepped away from the door. At the same time that I saw her, she saw me staring at her through the window. Awkward.
“Hi!” I said, running to open the door, as if I hadn’t heard her 9-minute knock.
“Can I use your phone?”
After the phone call, she ate my leftover pizza and filled me in on her life. I learned she’d just turned 16, was taking driver’s ed and couldn’t wait for her boyfriend to get out of jail. She told me about the loneliness of the place where she stayed, away from her brother, sister and mom. She balked at the fact that we don’t have a working TV: “What do you do?”
Finally, I drove her home and we made plans to eat together again tomorrow, when Ellia and Olive could meet her. I sat in front of her dark house, watching her fish for her keys, wondering what it felt like to live with a family that isn’t your family and wishing she wasn’t on her own at 16.
When I drove back home, I noticed I’d lost my fighting edge. I didn’t want to shank anyone anymore-- at best, I was now like a West Side Story gangster who snapped in dance steps around the enemy. Maybe it had been silly to sink into my feelings of loneliness and rejection. Maybe I’m not the center of the universe.
It’s easy to view situations, events and relationships through the lens of how they affect me. Instead of seeking to love, I worry about how I’m being loved. Instead of offering encouragement, I expect others to boost my self-confidence. I enter each room wanting to be noticed, admired, and respected. But what if I entered each room with the intention of noticing and loving others?
When we’re feeling most self-focused, hurt, frustrated, and angry at the world for not being perfect enough, there’s always a knock at the door.
In the midst of the sunless room of self, we need an invitation to join the outside world again, to pick up the self-giving love of the Trinity and reunite with humanity.
We need the reminder that we feel most alive not when we demand love, but when we give it.
My friend came over at the perfect time. I’m convinced she was sent to remind me that life is bigger than the stifling emotions I experience within my own walls. She reminded me that the best way to relieve loneliness is to extend friendship. The best way to relieve frustration is to offer comfort. It’s not about avoiding our pain-- the knock on the door just reminds us that we’re more than what we’re experiencing in the moment.
Too often, we allow our circumstances to block us from giving ourselves. We want to wait to live generously or love extravagantly until we feel whole. But the truth is, we don’t need undistracted minds and unbroken hearts in order to care for others.
The kingdom inaugurated by Jesus was one in which broken people choose to love broken people.
When I open the door, the world gets bigger and I get smaller. I can love because God loves. I can give because I have nothing to lose. And I remember all over again how glad I am the world doesn’t revolve around me.