I thought it was clear as to why we wear and speak the phrase. Only after reading a letter I had recently received from a friend, did I actually understand the true significance of those two simple words — welcome home.
Mo1 is currently serving a 10 year sentence in a military prison. He’s completed three years but in those few years he’s lost his career, his marriage, friendships, the love and respect from his children, and the support of many loved ones.
What he hasn’t lost is his faith.
His faith has been tested through injustice, abandonment, lonliness, shame, injustice, depression, fear, succlussion and more. But through every pain his endurance has produced in him a hope greater than any he would have found in the world (Rom 5:3-4).
When there’s nowhere else to run when you hit rock bottom run to the Father. You are always welcome in the Father’s presence.
1Name has been changed for privacy.
Mo writes often. It’s an outlet for him; a chance for him to vent, to share, and to communicate. His letters most always lead to great discussion centered on God’s Word. He shares his current struggles and God reveals His promises in return. In his most recent letter he told of his recent visitation with some loved ones. He shared with me his grandmother’s unwillingness to outwardly admit to and transparently live in the truth of her grandson’s circumstances for sake of saving face.
“ … they are embarrassed and I get it. This is embarrassing. People don’t take kindly to people being in prison … So I asked [my grandmother], ‘… since you’re not telling people what’s really going on and saying that I’m still in the military, what’s gonna happen when I come home?’”
“Well, you can’t come to my church.“
If you’ve ever heard those words yourself you can imagine the hurt Mo felt. Reading her words left my heart in pure agony for my brother and for every person who has ever been told, or even felt, as if they were unwelcome.
Her church?! Has the veil not yet been torn?!
Is it not He — Friend of Sinners — who we follow (Lk 7:34)?
Mo’s words continued …
“Everyone knows I’m your grandson … I’m not gonna lie and say I wan’t here. I’m not ashamed; I’d love to tell the church how I kept my faith through this but I don’t want to be an embarrassment. I might as well flee the country — all someone has to do it look up your address and boom, there I am … Maybe I shouldn’t come home.”
“I can’t lie, that hurt — especially while I’m learning Christianity and thinking about it more and more. That was a huge turn off. I’m considering doing the entire 10 years so there’s no parole and just disappear.”
Here is a man with a deep desire to understand Christianity and share his testimony of faith with others. Yet, to become an embarrassment to his family was never his intention and the only option in his mind to avoid being that embarrassment would be to not return home.
Unless you’re a parent of a teenager you don’t purposefully sets out to “be an embarrassment.” Yet, it’s not uncommon for our choices and our circumstances to present us as an embarrassment to those closest to us. And for those of us who are recovering people-pleasers, feeling to have let-down and embarrassed your loved ones creates the perfect opportunity for the enemy to attack (1 Pet 5:8). Afterall, the enemy would love nothing more than to lead a Christ-follower to second-guess himself and his faith.
So, I can understand Mo’s confusion on Christianity when he’s learning the truth about God’s grace and redemption through Scripture and witnessing strangers practice more grace and hospitality than his very own blood.
God reiterates the command to practice hospitality throughout the New Testament (see Rom 12:13; 1 Tim 3:2; 5:10; Heb 13:2; 1 Pet 4:9; 3 Jn 1:5-8). His repitition of such command simply highlights the importance of His (C)hurch — His people — in practicing hospitality. All-the-same, every (c)hurch is called to the very same. Welcoming others is not merely a suggestion, it’s a command. For we know that all have sinned and all fall short of God’s standard (Rom 3:23).
Nevertheless, amid his doubts and distractions from the world, he declared a radical statement of faith and freedom when he said,
“I’m not ashamed.”
Those words alone are power. To declare you are unashamed is to rightfully declare your commitment to following Christ. The more we speak it, the more we believe it. Shame begins to have no power over us.
When Christ went forth to the cross, he disregarded the shame associated with it (Heb 12:2). He might as well have shouted, “I’m not ashamed!” Christ bore the weight of our sins, reconciling us to the Father (2 Cor 5:18) so that we can hear Him say “Welcome Home.”
We, believers, are on a mission — a race to the finish line. With eyes set on Jesus we long for the day we are welcomed home into paradise. We imagine. We dream. We believe in greater things yet to come. And until that day comes, we will always wonder what’s gonna happen when I do go home?
The wonder keeps us running towards God. The vision of the Father welcoming us home gives us hope. The promise to be freed from the pain and suffering we experience in this world brings joy in the waiting and the journey.
Yet our past can still haunt us and our sin entangle us. The weight of daily toils can become heavy. We desire freedom from everything holding us back from experiencing the life God wills for us, yet the world blurs our sights and muffles our hearing as it seeks to lead us to question our worthiness and doubt our God.
And when the world becomes too loud and too chaotic, we begin believing those lies. We hold onto the shame. Despite attempts to break free from the guilt, the lies, the shame … the weight becomes too heavy to bear and we begin to tell ourselves that we shouldn’t even try anymore. We are left believing we are unworthy and unwelcome. We are left believing God doesn’t even want us to come home afterall.
God wants his church to be a place where EVERYONE is welcome and EVERYONE feels at home. God longs for his lost children to come home and when they do, he doesn’t shame them or disqualify them; He runs toward them, embraces them, and calls for celebration (Lk 15:11-32). There’s no doubt that he says to His child, “Welcome home.”
Regardless of how far you’ve run you can always COME HOME.
“No matter how hard things are I do my best to stay focused. I trust God. I know I do. It’s too hard to give up. My faith won’t let me.”Mo
Photo Credits | Grace Fellowship Church, 2019.