A few months ago, I was challenged to think of a literal place that brought me complete joy, peace, safety, comfort. I wanted it to be church. I gave a valiant effort. I thought of the youth ministries I have served in the past 20 years. I thought of dear friends made over the course of ministry done together. I thought of influential people in my history – professors, pastors, and the like.
But try as I might, I could only think of one place that brought me the kind of security we were thinking about: my grandmother’s kitchen.
I can still see her robin-egg blue enamel kitchen table with mis-matched leather chairs shoved against the wall. And just behind, the make-shift counter – probably recycled from an old tool shed somewhere by my grandfather. That counter top was always chock full of stuff – dishes awaiting their permanent home, the huge, black rotary dial phone (on a party line!), and her old clay cookie jar…which I can see clearly in my own kitchen as I write this.
Because we lived on what I have affectionately dubbed ‘the family compound’, I would walk up the hill to grandma’s house every day before school. She made me pancakes for breakfast almost every day – and every afternoon, gingersnaps standing by in the cookie jar.
She doctored scraped knees in that kitchen. She ‘told the cow how to eat the cabbage’ in that kitchen. She comforted scared and scarred children in that kitchen. She listened to dreams -and encouraged them in that kitchen. She served, prayed, disciplined, comforted, played, cried, laughed, cooked, cleaned, and loved in that kitchen.
She pastored me in that kitchen – so in many ways, THAT church is the safest place I’ll ever know. I miss her kitchen – and her influence and counsel in my life. I am overwhelmed that God knew from the very beginning what kind of refuge I would need as a kid…and He ordained that position to my grandmother. And no matter how long I serve in student ministry – how many churches, pastors, or people I lead – my safest place will always be that ‘church’ just up the hill from my house.