Have you seen the movie Antwone Fisher? It’s the true story of a young man abandoned at birth by his mother and then raised in abusive orphanages, foster homes, and reform schools. Denzel Washington adapted the story into a movie that was released a few years ago. After his 18th birthday, Antwone Fisher joins the navy where his anger towards life brims to the surface. After several fights, he is ordered to undergo counseling. Psychologist Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington) encourages Antwone to find his family to begin healing. After several phone calls he reaches one aunt and uncle in Cleveland, who escort him to a dilapidated apartment complex where his estranged mother lives. A suspicious and aloof woman answers the door. Upon realizing that Antwone is the child she gave up at birth, she retreats to another room and sits down on a soiled and worn couch and cries silently.
Antwone asks for some explanation as to why she never came to rescue him or why she never sought him out. She cannot answer. She simply stares ahead, not daring to look at him, tears rolling down her expressionless face. He gently kisses her on the cheek as if to say, "I forgive you," and walks away devastated and feeling helpless and alone. His mother remains on the couch and stares at nothing, making no effort to respond. A despondent Antwone Fisher leaves the apartment with his questions unanswered and rides back to his aunt’s house with his uncle.
As he exits the car, his slow gait betrays the loneliness of a man with no hope of a meaningful connection to anyone. As Antwone enters the front door, however, his world changes. He is met with a chorus of cheers from 50 plus relatives, all waiting to meet Antwone for the first time. There are children, couples, cousins, uncles, and family friends, all smothering him with hugs, slaps on the back, and beaming smiles. One cousin tells him his name is Edward and says, "I’m named after your dad," and an older aunt squeezes his cheeks. Antwone takes it all in, overwhelmed.
The hallway stairs are filled with kids holding up signs with his name scribbled next to crayola-sketched smiley faces and rainbows. He is then led into the next room where a grand feast is spread across a long table. The table is overflowing with chicken, mashed potatoes, pancakes, fruit salad, and every other possible dish. The room is prepared for a party. For the first time in his life, he is being adored. For the first time, he belongs.
As the clamor quiets, an elderly woman sitting behind the table knocks to get Antwone’s attention and then waves for him to come over next to her. With slow, deliberate moves, she raises her arms, grabbing his hands and then caressing his face. A slow tear runs down her cheek, and with a raspy voice that seemed as if it was mustering all the strength it possessed, she whispered the redemptive invitation: "Welcome." (Note: I found the above description on another site—I can’t remember where. Antwone Fisher (A Mundy Lane/Todd Black Production, 2002), rated PG-13, written by Antwone Fisher, directed by Denzel Washington).
Imagine being welcomed in that way. Imagine being welcomed home like that—if you can picture that kind of love, that kind of joy, that kind of acceptance, then you can begin to imagine the reception that awaits everyone who is welcomed into the presence of God when we leave our earthly home and go home to be with Jesus.
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