A few years ago, sitting in the park with a group of hip, Cambridge mommas, I was feeling insecure. These mothers are playwrights, and artists, and very, very Cambridge. They are fun and liberal and like Margaritas. And in spite of the fact that I write, and I’m politically liberal, and I’m usually fun, and I always like Margaritas, I was afraid they wouldn’t think that I was one of them.
Because I love Jesus and believe the whole, crazy Jesus story. Which I know is weird. So very, very weird. But it doesn’t cancel out all of the other stuff. And for the most part, these women know that and they love me well. Still, I worried that one day they would all decide that I couldn’t play with them anymore.
So there we are sitting in the park, and Tina turns to me and says, “Hey, don’t be offended, but why are there always so many Asians at your house?”
Okay, I didn’t expect that.
At first I was just shocked. Didn’t she know that we don’t say those things aloud in Cambridge?
Then I was offended. Which is bound to happen when anyone starts a sentence with, “Don’t be offended, but…”
“Tina!” everyone shouted in unison. “What’s wrong with you?”
“No, seriously,” she persisted, “it’s not normal.”
And then my shock and offense melted away. She was right. It’s not normal, not in the sense that normal means typical. We are not normal. But I didn’t know exactly how to say that sitting in the park back then. Instead, I just said that “all of those Asian people” were our friends and left it at that.
In the last week, we have shared our home with the following people: a few secular Jews, more than a dozen Messianic Jews (whom the secular Jews might not consider Jews), more than a dozen African Americans, a handful of Koreans, a Jamaican guy who lives in Uganda working with prisoners, four Costa Ricans, a Guatamalan, a Brazilian, a Mexican, a handful of biracial kids, a handful of White people, and a Texan (which, let’s face it, is like its own country).
Some of these people deal with pretty severe mental illness and others are just weird. Some are essentially homeless, others live in public housing, and others, like us, live in what can only rightly be called a mansion. Some of them were here for one of the various events that took place this week and others just stopped by. Seven of them spent the night and a few only stayed long enough for a cup of coffee.
It’s not like this every week. But it’s also not rare. And, yes, I know that it’s not normal.
And it has nothing to do with the kind of people Jeff and I are. Jeff and I were both married before and our homes did not look like this. But on our second anniversary, we sat on the front porch of our new home, drank a bottle of wine, and talked about why God had given us such a ridiculously big house.
We had known for awhile that God had plans for the house. Which is why, when Jeff had taken down all of the old walls, and before he put up the new ones, we had an “open house.” We gave everyone index cards, asked them to write prayers on the cards, and had them tack the cards up to the studs throughout the house. Which is why, for instance, you might feel incredible peace in our second floor bathroom. Someone prayed that all who entered there would have “time for quiet reflection.”
Sitting on the porch, having finished most of the wine, we did something that changed everything. We prayed that God would help us become the kind of people who could offer true hospitality to those who entered. And He has honored that prayer. God has been shaping us.
We’ve got a long way to go. We fail at being truly hospitable in ways too numerous to count. And with all of those people in the house, lots of our sinful attitudes, attitudes about race and class and education, rear their ugly heads. And we still get too much of our security from “owning” our house. But there is no doubt that God is at work. There is no other explanation for what is happening at Chez Barneschick, as we sometimes call the house.
And while it’s not directly related to homeschool, each of the people who come through the house shapes not just me and Jeff, but the boys as well. They get to have long breakfasts with people from all over the world. They get to strip the beds and pick up toys to make space for all of these people. They get to share their room and their food and their parents. They get to eat Korean BBQ with Steve and scallion pancakes with Kathy and sweet potato pies with Tiffany. In the process, I pray that they learn to celebrate the great God who made all the “nations.”
I wish Tina would ask me again why there are so many “whatever” at my house. I would know how to answer her now because I’m no longer afraid of not being one of the girls. And it’s not that I don’t care to be one of them anymore. I do. It’s that I know for certain that I am one of them. Just as assuredly as I am ‘one of them’ with any of the people in our house.
The not-normal Jesus I follow was always “one of them,” and he is shaping my heart to be one of them too, whoever “them” is.