A few weeks ago, my family watched what was a very eye-opening and awe-inspiring movie. Titled Gimme Shelter, the movie is based on the true story of a young woman who finds herself pregnant, alone and homeless.The world has told her again and again, through unimaginable circumstances, that she is unlovable and unworthy. The only one who showed her the attention and affection she deserved was a complete stranger, a woman who ran a shelter for young and unwed pregnant women. Living in the company of other women who shared the same hopes and fears, she begins to slowly let down her defenses and allow herself to be loved and connect with others.
As we watched the story of this young woman unfold, we began to realized just how indebted we are to the staff at the shelter who opened their doors to the birth mother of our daughter. Before watching the movie, we hadn’t given it much thought, but, if it wasn’t for the shelter of “My Father’s House,” the journey for our daughter’s birth mother may have been very different.
I don’t know the meaning behind the namesake of the shelter, but I can’t help but draw several connections between the kind of care the young women receive at the shelter and the kind of care God, our Father, shows each one of us. It strikes me that when the women in need of shelter show up at the door of “My Father’s House,” they are most likely at one of the toughest points of their lives. Perhaps their journey to the front door of the shelter was wrought with poor decisions. Perhaps they had walked the straight and narrow all their life and were dumbfounded at their current circumstance. Undoubtedly, they were afraid and out of options. Regardless of the road they traveled to get there, the door was opened to them and they were accepted with unconditional love.
This is the very kind of love we will celebrate come Easter morning. This is the kind of selfless love we are each gifted with from the one who died for us. Every one of us occupies our own space in the heart of our Father. That spot is reserved solely for that one very special person and nothing that person says or does during his or her life on earth will alter the love our Father has for him or her.
When we walk into our Father’s house, we are all broken in our humanness. We each arrive having traveled different paths; some may arrive in the midst of a storm, some arrive confident in their independence from any divine intervention. Others may arrive full of questions, or full of pain. At the heart of the matter is the simple fact that, in Jesus’ suffering, we are wrapped in love. In the weight of His cross, we are told we are cherished. Worthy we are not, but accepted and loved we are.
The shelter where our daughter’s birth-mother stayed has eight rooms available. However, it would remain open for just one. Those that run the shelter know their work, and their love for those in need, is that important. The same is true for each of us. If we were the only person on earth at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, He would have died just for us. This is a gift we are all meant to ponder as we prepare for the celebration of His resurrection. My family sent the below letter to the shelter that housed the birth-mother of our daughter while she was pregnant. The same kind of letter could be sent from each one of us to our Father. Wishing you all a joy-filled Easter celebration!
Dear Staff at Our Father’s House,
She is now four and a half years old. She has gorgeous long black hair and beautiful almond-shaped brown eyes. She is tiny in stature and has just the right amount of pudge to provide the perfect “squish” when hugged. She almost always wears her sweet smile, and emotes such joy through her expressions, it is nearly impossible to look at her without smiling yourself.
She is healthy and she is strong. She loves to run, jump, dance and sing. She is ferociously independent and ingests the world around her without missing the smallest of details. She makes our heads spin and our hearts swell. She spends her days being smothered in love and affection and generously returns the love she receives. Her belly laugh is intoxicating, her wit continually surprising, her presence a never-ending gift. She is all these things and so much more. She is our daughter and we want to say, “Thank you” to all of you who were a part of supporting her life.
You never had the chance to meet our daughter, but you knew her birth-mom. You received her birth-mother into your hearts and your home and you provided her with shelter, acceptance, support and security during a time in her life when she was in need of all these things. You didn’t judge her, discourage her, condemn her or question her. Rather, you welcomed her, you protected her, you affirmed her, you educated her. Thank you.
When the world told her her problems weren’t deserving of attention, you showed her she was important and her problems were in fact opportunities. When she arrived seeking your shelter, she had already survived the storm of voices that suggested abortion may be her best choice, especially when she was told her daughter would carry an extra chromosome. She courageously chose life and cherished the child she carried, extra chromosome and all. While in your care, you helped to replace her moments of fear with peace, her questions with answers and her doubt with conviction. Thank you.
While she sheltered our daughter in her womb, you provided shelter for the woman to whom we will be eternally indebted to for trusting us with the precious life of her sweet girl. You valued the life and circumstance of the birth mother, so she could in turn value the life within her. Thank you.
We prayed for our daughter before she was even conceived. We prayed for her health and for strength, guidance and wisdom for her birth parents. We didn’t know at the time that “Our Father’s House” would be a part of answering our prayers. We thank you for allowing God to work through the staff there and touch the hearts of so many mothers and children.
When your days become long, when there doesn’t seem to be answers to the challenges you face, when you feel as though you aren’t getting through to the women you serve, please remember the joy you see in the face of our daughter and accept our deepest gratitude for working the long hours, facing each challenge head on and staying the course. In a world that increasingly dismisses the miracle of life, we commend your work in upholding the dignity and beauty of each mother and child she carries. We will continue to support you in prayer as you welcome each of your clients home.
Sincerely, The Johnson Family
Copyright 2016 Nicole Johnson