Greetings friends and family,
Last night, as the evening came to an end, I asked my oldest daughter if she knew about the expression “rolling out the red carpet.” She didn’t, which surprised me given all the time she spends looking at memes and the like on various social media sites. I had asked her because I used the expression earlier when l had bravely (or was it naively) attempted to offer some advice to my soon-to-be high school daughter.
The genesis of this post was a situation of awkward and presumptuous teenage social dynamics. At a large gathering, my daughter saw other girls exchange whispers and cast suspicious glances her way, which bothered her. She felt judged and rejected. Is this more common with girls? I’m not sure, but I’ve certainly heard many stories about my daughters being rejected by the indirect but probably benign miscommunication of body language. My advice last night? “Next time you see these girls, greet them warmly, sincerely. Always be willing to roll out the red carpet to allow others to enter your life.”
Then I explained what the expression meant, how we should always welcome people, desire reconciliation of conflict, actual or perceived, slight or grave. That it is good to practice self-giving love.
That advice now rings hollow. I recognize it as oversimplified dogma. Dad-speak. But to my daughter’s credit (or perhaps just to get away), her response was music to my parental ears: “OK Dad.” And that was it with her.
Left alone though, it almost felt like I had told her a lie. A voice inside repeated, “get the plank out of your own eye.” You see, there are a few people for whom I don’t want to roll out the red carpet. Not anymore. I’m tired of being rejected. For them I keep the red carpet tightly wound.
This spring, I spent a week with my family in Washington DC. The obvious attraction is the Mall and surrounding area. We had enjoyed the experience of visiting museums, monuments, buildings of government, the beauty of the expanse of park-like surroundings, and even the solemnity of a national cemetery; all testaments to man’s seemingly limitless capacity for good and evil. But it was the walk to the White House that I picture today. To get to it from the Washington Monument, we had to make our way beyond the buildings surrounding the Mall, walk across an out-of-place, unkempt open field, like a wilderness in the middle of civilization. We were then paraded across a pedestrian-only road, secured, gated and buzzing with security guards. We stepped onto a border of lush, green grass into a crowd of people gaping through the iron fence surrounding the property and separating us from the manicured landscape and the awe-inspiring, historical home of presidents and their families. Unable to enter because we lacked the necessary credentials, I nonetheless wished someone would have opened the gate to let us in.
And here’s the turn. I now imagine, instead, that I stand at the fence surrounding the mysterious place called Paradise. But instead of being locked out, there is free access. The gate is wide open. The red carpet is rolled out. Not like some tourist-attraction, but somehow just for me. And for anyone. And yet, it feels guarded. I’m wary. I want so much to reach the destination but doing so requires acknowledging the way. I can’t look past the path. There is a red carpet, and it is welcoming, but I sense that to walk upon it will be to trod upon someone’s life. And as I step, I see that my footprints remain, as if impressed in fresh concrete, but the color is not gray and lifeless but the unmistakable red from a very precious dye.
Oh Jesus, what you have done.
Life always offers many possibilities. With mine, I can attempt to contribute to the work of mankind, perhaps even to have my achievements preserved in a museum or monument, though that’s extraordinarily unlikely. I’m more apt to camp out or, perhaps, become stranded in some wilderness. Occasionally, I just like to stick around for the party. Regardless, I often hang back in the crowd, choosing not to walk the narrow way. I sometimes take a few steps in faith, only to turn back time and again.
But the red carpet remains. Well worn and perfect. Daring me to cross.
Oh man, will we ever reach a place of rest where we can all enjoy life together?