In my adult life, I move quite a bit. In fourteen years, I've lived in six different places, five different states. Talk about being the new girl, right? I know a bit about how it feels to be a stranger.
Yet through today's readings, the Holy Spirit is prodding me to dig into my heart and soul and push the limits of my comfort zone. He wants me to seek holiness and bring Christ deep into my soul. Those deep dark corners where grudges dwell, where angry, negative, resentful thoughts reside, where Love hasn't been welcomed yet. He wants me to see the people I've treated as strangers.
The words in Leviticus: "You shall bear no hatred for your brother, take no revenge, cherish no grudge. . .love your neighbor as yourself," paired with the words of Jesus about welcoming the stranger have been working on my heart since I first read these readings together. I'm starting to understand that when Jesus talks about being the stranger who is given no welcome He's not only talking about the new girl in town. While we are called to welcome the stranger who we do not know, He's also talking about those near and dear who we can treat us like strangers when we're hurt.
Am I possibly holding a grudge as I grumble about dirty socks left by the couch, groan about a project that's hard to wrap up with my kids, or gripe about a friend whose actions are bothering me? These negative thoughts can hurt my relationships by putting distance in my heart between myself and those nearest to me. If I let it continue, I make strangers out of them.
Ouch! It stings when the Spirit sheds light in those dark corners, and it is hard to overcome that gap and know my loved ones again.
Now is a perfect time to turn back to the Lord and seek healing, to ask the Holy Spirit for grace and courage to reach out to our loved ones, for the ability to love the person we've been distant from.
"Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before you, O Lord." Let my thoughts not be resentful and filled with grudges. Let your healing graces change my heart, O Lord, so that I truly do welcome the stranger, love my neighbor, and meet You in every person near to me.
Gina Fensterer is a wife, daughter, mother, friend, homeschooling mama and Colorado native. You can find out more about her here.