I was waiting for the plumber at one of our ministry houses and I decided to rest a minute on the front porch.
It was one of those perfect moments. A light rain was falling, the slightest breeze stirring, and the temperature was at that sweet spot where you felt neither hot nor cold.
Calmed by the quiet, I found myself thinking about porches.
I remembered reading Carlos Castaneda and his Yaqui shaman insisting he find the one spot on the porch that would make him feel happy and strong.
There was Phillip Gulley, a Quaker minister whose Front Porch Tales of struggles, love and laughter were first inspired and then retold from his own rural Indiana porch.
And a local pastor who made his front porch a holy place of prayer, counseling and hospitality during COVID.
I recalled childhood neighbors, sitting on their porches, seeking the cool of the evening, waving at the occasional car, but mainly sitting in comfortable silence.
The word porch came to English, through French, from the Latin porta, which meant passage.
A passage indeed, on many levels. Architecturally, the porch is a passage into the home, but used properly, it is also a passage of time, a passage unto others, a passage into self.
A porch is liminal space, a threshold over which we pass, leaving behind the immediacy and busyness of our daily world and entering a realm where we are invited to encounter and ponder the meaning of what we do and why we are.
It is a place of memory where we cannot help but replay moments of our lives, experience again the joy or the grief of those events, and honor them by recognizing their role in who we have become.
The porch is attentive to the now, as well, inviting us to see our many blessings. But it is also a fearless place that urges us to face the loss, the uncertainty or the failure that are the shadows of every age.
It is an extension of the home, a communal place where we might sit with family or friends, growing closer through slow words and long pauses.
From the porch, we look out on the world, greet it and invite it into conversation. Happily, the porch is seeing a resurgence in new homes. But that’s just a roof, a floor and maybe a swing.
It will take time to make it a place where you can hear the whispers of God.