Their doors are open 365 days a year. 366 during leap year. The phone is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yes, even on Christmas. Every day the breakfast meal is served at 7:00 AM sharp with lunch following promptly at 11:45. The showers are always hot and the towels are always fresh.
For the homeless who are out of friend's couches and futons to crash on for the night; the displaced who have exhausted every alternative option to rest under a roof, the shelter is where they turn. When all else fails, the shelter is a reliable, dependable place the wandering can go where they will be safe and warm. The desperate know that beyond the front door and just past the sign-in table they'll receive the opportunity to wash up and fill up on something other than dollar menu food. They will receive a clean, dry pair of socks and a bed with a full set of sheets and real bed pillow. After nights spent on the floors of random apartments, reeking of days old dirty clothes and unwashed hair, the basic necessities in the shelter sound like luxuries. Who knew soap and a mattress could look so glorious?
The moment the homeless and hopeless come to the doors of the shelter and write their name across the top of the sign-in sheet they surrender. They come in knowing that they must leave behind on the streets more than just their dirty socks. They agree to leave behind their dirty mouths and dirty habits. Guests at the shelter can't enter in with their drugs and alcohol. Their cigarettes must be discarded, too. Starting fights and cussing aren't acceptable behavior. For the shelter to remain a safe sanctuary the standard of upright conduct and behavior must be upheld. Dissenters and the disobedient will be asked to leave, welcome to return if they abide by the rules. The door will always be open to them, every offering of the shelter still available, but not until the old life is left behind. For the shelter to remain a safe haven, a place of rest and relief, it must remain pure and protected from the destructive patterns of the street life.
And so it is in God's shelter. His doors are always open. He answers the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He feeds His precious guests bountiful, satisfying nourishment as faithfully as the sun rises and sets. He provides cleansing and renewal by the washing of His Word. He provides His promises as comfortable, peaceful places of rest for weary heads and heavy hearts. He warms with the presence of His Holy Spirit.
The needy, hopeless and homeless hearts who seek God's shelter must come surrendered and submitted. The desperate must leave behind their old sin and wayward ways of life. Rebellion and disobedience won't be tolerated. The lawless who refuse to denounce and abandon old sins will be asked to leave, welcomed back with open arms when their hearts are ready to submit to the rules. Hearts must be broken of their independence so that they can receive the care God is offering. Submission must be voluntary, ongoing and sincere. For God's shelter to remain a sanctuary of peace and serenity His standard of righteousness must be upheld.
The shelter rules God has established aren't cruel or mean. He isn't heartless to the homeless. God cares so passionately and loves so deeply that He won't stand by and watch His precious children poison themselves with bad decisions. He puts His foot down and says, "Not in my house." God requires our obedience for our survival. His desire is to transform us from lost, sinful vagabonds into residents of His house. He wants to rescue us from the dangers of the streets and provide us a permanent safe place to call home. God longs to remove from our hearts destructive behaviors and dark secrets. He longs to wash away our past rebellion and sins of old so that we can be new creations, living lives that are clean, beautiful and well-nourished.
All that God asks in return is that we leave every remnant of the old life behind. All of it. Every past sin, mistake, regret, temptation and bad decision. Every false god, every drug of destructive choice and every lawless deed. God commands us to leave behind the words that curse and hurt the soul. Flee from the road that led to desolation and run into the arms of the God of eternal shelter.
With forgiveness on His lips and salvation in His hands, God whispers to the homeless and the hopeless, "My child, come and surrender your all and I promise you this, I will be your all in all and all you'll ever need."