Every once-in-a-while a volume comes along that allows you to peer into the lives of others. A volume that acts as both a window and a looking glass. Allowing you to see into lives and situations while forcing you to look at yourself. A volume that forces you to gasp at the overwhelming experiences of the author and their story while knowing that grace is–simply–greater than.
Strangers At My Door by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (@wilsonhartgrove) is one of those volumes.
Jonathan tells the stories of people for whom he has opened the door. In the process of telling these stories, he opens the rooftop of his home and allows us to peer into the situation. He forces us to see that to which we often keep our eyes closed.
When someone knocks on Jonathan’s door, they are not the people you would normally find knocking on your door. These are people who often have no other door on which they can knock. They are drunk or high or fresh out of prison. They are hungry or homeless. They are in need.
And, Jonathan opens the door. Welcoming them as if they were Jesus himself knocking. Bringing to each one the Kingdom of Heaven.
And, in Strangers At My Door, he allows us to welcome them as well.
There’s a beautiful and tragic story that led Jonathan and his wife, Leah, to start Rutba House–a hospitality house in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, North Carolina. It is, as Jonathan describes, the Good Samaritan story. The enemy being the bearer of life and healing. The one who should hate being the very one who shows love.
Over the past several years, Rutba House has welcomed the stranger. They’ve welcomed those who needed to be welcomed. Those who needed to know that Jesus loved them. Those who needed.
Yet, in welcoming those who needed the most, Jonathan has found that he has been healed. That life has been given to him. He has come to learn that grace is greater than.
On page 163, Jonathan concludes a tragic story with this sentence:
But I do know that, here in the midst of the mess that we’ve made of this world, grace happens.
Strangers At My Door is a collection of stories about grace happening. It is a collection of stories about the Kingdom coming in the lives of individuals. It is the story of how the Kingdom has come—through some very unlikely carriers—to Jonathan and Leah and their friends at Rutba House.
As I peered into the window of Rutba House and watched these stories unfold, I found myself staring into a mirror. At some point in the midst of each story, I found myself asking “Would I welcome this person?”
Would I be Jesus to that one?
Would I open the door?
Would I allow grace to happen?
As Jonathan relates to us the stories of the knocks at his door, he reminds us that “being saved” is a process. He reminds us that the Kingdom doesn’t come all at once. Rather it comes in fits-and-starts. It comes bit-by-bit. Piece-by-piece. Story-by-story.
He reminds us that God usually chooses to drop in and walk through our problems with us. He doesn’t usually yank us out of them. He reminds us that if we look closely enough in the messiest of messes, we can see the Kingdom.
Grace does not come near to fix our problems, but to open our eyes to the possibility of beauty in the midst of problems.
— Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in Strangers At My Door.
- FTC (16 CFR, Part 255) Disclaimer: I received my copy of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgroves’s book Strangers At My Door from Blogging for Books for this review.
|Strangers at My Door: A True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected GuestsBy Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove / Convergent Books
Jesus said, “I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” But what would your life be like if you really took him at his word? Using the power of story, Wilson-Hartgrove paints a vivid picture of the amazing things that happened when he welcomed drug dealers, criminals, and other colorful characters to share his table. Softcover.