I have two small children (wow, I can’t say that I have two under two anymore!), and getting out of our apartment is at times a physical feat. We have a back door that exits to where our cars are parked, and this is the door that Doug and I have always used to come in and out of our house. However, the staircase is treacherous and I do not trust myself to manage both kids on it. So, after Aaron joined the family, I had to start using our front door whenever I would go anywhere with the kids.

Our landlord is a wonderful man who we deeply appreciate and enjoy. He lives on the first floor of our house and we occupy the upstairs. The home belonged to his mother and was passed along to him after she died. He is a great man who never ceases to amaze me with the things that he knows and the range of experiences he has had in his life. In one of his past lives, he cultivated palm trees for a nursery. This explains the standout beauty of our property, lush with palms of all variety, meticulously cared for and maintained. In fact, our property is so beautiful that when we first moved here and sent pictures to people of where we were living, the response was always some variation of: “this the ghetto?”

So as thankful as I am for our little urban oasis, there is one significant annoyance I feel every time I leave or come home through my front door. There is a gigantic palm that sits to the right of our front porch/stairs. It is quite beautiful, and the UPS guy told me an outrageous number for how much the thing is worth (which Doug later confirmed). But it is also very huge and pointy. And it is beginning to take over the stairs, leaving an ever-decreasing space for bodies to pass (there is another palm on the left side–nowhere near as large and aggressive, but still quite formidable). I guess it was at the end of my pregnancy that I started having Mercy and I use the front stairs, and I can remember trying to contort my swollen body to somehow pass through unscratched. And after Aaron arrived, I only felt more frustration as I repeatedly poked my infants face or arms in my attempts to come and go.

I asked our landlord if he could trim it for me. Seemed like a logical enough request, and I was the epitome of pitiful: how could someone not come to the aid of this harried, baby-laden woman? Well, I guess my request would be the equivalent of asking Doug if I could please key his new guitar. It was not going to happen. “Maybe I can trim back the other one a little,” he offered.

That was nine months ago, and I have resigned myself to the squeeze and poke. But yesterday it struck me: this is sometimes how the church behaves. We have something that we are attached to; something that cost us a lot of money; something we have cultivated and nurtured for many years; something that defined us in our past. And because we love it, we have lost the ability to see how it no longer serves its purpose: how something appealing that was placed next to an entrance is now an obstacle for that very entry. And so we choose to make sacred the adornment, and we abandon the thing that adornment was intended to serve. Access and welcome become secondary to presentation or attachments, and it is not an issue because those who belong have keys to the back door.

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