By Ellen Nimmo
I’m not sure if we were invited per se, but it always felt like we were. Like we were meant to be there. Like it was her pleasure. Her delight. Her delight that we needed feeding and exercising, and help going to the bathroom. That we needed watching after, teaching, tending to and caring for, entertaining, and reverent silence. She didn’t even seem to mind the fact that we asked too many questions and gave far too many complaints. No, she didn’t mind. We were invited. The raw version. Us. We were. One might have even said it was her joy that we came, mess and all.
My Grandma was cool like that.
Which, I suppose, makes me lucky like that.
This week I heard my pal Matt talk about being invited. He was talking about Jesus’s invitation in Mathew 11: 28-30. You can watch the whole thing here. At the very beginning of the short video he mentioned grandmas and, well, I guess it just stuck with me. It got me thinking about my Grandma, Muriel. Remembering her and how I always felt invited to be in her house, in her kitchen, in her presence. Not forced. Not cajoled, coddled, or coerced. Not in hostile hospitality or refractory reception, but invited, welcomed.
Welcomed into play and into resting too. A reprieve from the normal routines. An invitation to explore, create, imagine, learn, lay down for a bit, and err.
At Grandma’s house you sang songs and told jokes without shame or regret. There was time, space to spend hours wrapped in a knitted blanket flipping through pages and pages of National Geographic in the cedar-smell attic, the bodies of plants, animals, and humans aglow in the faint light of a single attic bulb, radiant in the majesty of Creation. At Grandma’s house, you could drink warm tea from a mug and pretend you were all grown up, perceiving, under the gaze of her gray blue eyes, that despite the mug, you still knew so little in comparison. Lines on her face, the stories untold, from decades of observation, laughter, grief, and work. Grandma wouldn’t humiliate you; no, no, you were invited. Her smiling eyes hummed the invitation. Learn from me. Watch my joy. Partake in the work of today, and be glad in it. There’s a lot to rejoice in.
In Grandma’s presence you were just you. You were a precious vessel to be poured into, an individual with unique value – cracks and all. Open canisters for joy as she invited us, us children, to help with chores. Turn the music up, grab a dusting towel – let’s make this place sparkle and shine! You’re invited! You can make a difference here. Taking walks with her in the evening, Grandma would encourage curiosity and discovery. Let’s go for a walk and see how often we can find the color red. Enjoy some restful work and make the best lemonade ever tasted by human lips or design some never-before-seen creature with only a box of crayons and the blank back of an electric bill. All under Grandma’s invitation. Under grandma’s invitation we would overlay our shoes with wool socks and tromp through the rare and snowy woods, exploring to our hearts content, or at least until dinner was served. Tables and chairs were smaller at grandma’s house, everyone was invited to sit a little lower and a little closer together, and if you felt up to it, you could take your turn saying Grace before the meal.
As I remember the feeling of grandma’s invitation(s), I feel it must be merely a shimmering shadow of the one Jesus extends us in Matthew 11.
A few years ago I read the Book of Matthew. I wasn’t sure what I might find and because of that, I was nervous. But once I began reading, I couldn’t stop. Because I found so much of what Jesus said stirring. Sometimes troubling, sometimes comforting, but always stirring. I believe he was who he claimed to be: Son of God, Lion and Lamb. It’s for this reason I think the invitation he extends us in Matthew 11 is both genuine and transcendent. That his yoke, the work he does next to us, becomes light. The temporary burdens we experience indeed brief. And that our souls will find both their recreation and their reprieve in his invitation, his humble-hearted presence, his ever-lasting light. Some might call it a kingly invitation or one like that of a father, but to me, there’s something Grandmotherly about the way Jesus tenderly welcomes us into more and reminds us that with him is where our souls belong.