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’m politically liberal, I’m usually fun, and I always like Margaritas, I was afraid they wouldn’t think that I was one of them.
Why? Because I love Jesus and believe the whole, crazy Jesus story. Which I know is weird. But it doesn’t cancel out all of the other stuff. Gratefully, 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 were sitting in the park when Tina turns to me and said, “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, our family of four White Americans and one African American have shared our home with the following people: a secular Jew, a couple of Messianic Jews (whom the secular Jews might not consider Jews), a couple of Chinese, a White Brit, a half dozen African Americans, a handful of Koreans, a Jamaican guy who lives in Uganda working with prisoners, a Guatamalan, a handful of biracial kids, a handful of White Americans, and a Republican (which, let’s face it, is as foreign as it gets around here).
Some of these people deal with seemingly intractable 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.
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.
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.
Each of the people who come through the house shapes not just me and Jeff, but the boys and Sissy 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. He’s got a lot of work to do. 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.
In the weeks ahead, I’ll write more about that sin and the ways God is calling me out of it. I want to thank Rebecca Cusey for starting this conversation, and I hope you’ll join us with reflections of your own. Being “one of them” is a lot of work, work that’s better done together.