My office is notoriously fun, on account of my strange collection of artifacts, objects, and works of art. I have turned my workspace into a curiosity cabinet, a laboratory almost like the sancto sanctorum of Dr. Strange or the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts. But nothing has been stranger, or more fun, than the year we had our pet hedgehog.

“Merton” lived on my desk amid the odd lamps, antique pipes, and discarded chess pieces. Whenever people came for counseling or prayer, they would inevitably be distracted by Merton. Despite his ornery personality and spiky tines, people loved to pick him up and rub his soft belly, and Merton provided a greater antidote for depression than any prayer or advice I was able to dispense.

My favorite moments were always when children would visit. I kept a pair of extra-small ski gloves in my desk so little ones could hold the strange rodent without being pricked. They would laugh as Merton balled himself up, barely looking out over his upturned-bum to sniff their noses.

This is a wonderful picture of how church should be. The older welcome the younger, introducing them to mysteries and curiosities only afforded by age and experience.

Church ought to be a petting zoo for your soul.

Adapted from Then. Now. Next.: A Biblical vision of the church, the kingdom, and the future.