God in the Sink
God in the Sink
Touching a Stranger
" I don't think I've met you. My name is Margie."
I said this as I held out my hand, warm and friendly, to a young woman standing in the foyer after church.
It's possible for someone to attend for quite awhile and I might not recognize her face. That's easy even in our relatively small church. We're out of town. They're out of town or working. Add a little weekend sickness, and there's a chance you might not notice a new person for weeks, maybe years. So even if I suspect I've seen them before I never ask, "Are you new to Trinity?" I'm conscientiously neutral so we can give each other an out. "I don't think I've met you." "I've been in India." "I need cataract surgery."
Anyways, it's risky - the whole business of introducing yourself to a stranger; when I force myself to do it, I think I deserve a little pat from God saying, "Nicely done, Margie. I know meeting strangers is hard. Your memory is bad. You are 50% introvert, but you need to pay better attention. Focus. (Her name is Heather. Heather.) I know you'd like to just go home, fix an omelet and watch the Vikings lose, still, you reached out to someone who needed a warm greeting. Enter into paradise." I imagine that person will be really grateful for this small gesture and perhaps it will be the beginning of more. Who knows?
None of this happened with the above nice, young woman. She looked me in the eye and said, "Well. We have met before."
(I'm thinking. Okay. Yes. That's entirely possible. However, for forgetting your face, I'll make it up to you by being utterly charming here.)
"In fact," she went on, "I stayed at your house last year."
You know how comedians sometimes use the bass drum, snare, and cymbals to deliver a single, syncopated beat? Ka-ta-boom. I heard it there in the church foyer, and it drowned everything and so completely derailed my concentration that when she did tell me her name, I still didn't get it. Are you familiar with the Bunny Suicides calendar I'm so fond of? I thought of several bunny ways to off myself, like tying a grenade to a boomerang. Ah, well.
So much for the meaningful practice of hospitality. So much for years of reading about and modeling "I was a stranger and you took me in." I can't even remember someone who stayed in our home less than a year ago. (There was a little more to the story, but later.)
Feeling like an idiot is pretty familiar territory and I've learned to quickly move on - or write about it. Being confronted with one's limitations and failures isn't such a bad thing. Jung liked to point out we learn nothing from our successes and everything from our mistakes, not that I base my entire life on what Jung says. Christine Pohl clears it up further when she writes, "Humility is a crucial virtue for hospitality, and especially important in keeping hosts' power in check. Power is a complicated dimension of hospitality" ( Making Room by C.D. Pohl, p. 120). If this is true, my power meter registers zero, so perhaps there is hope, after all.
Who Knows What Risk?
As Christians, we're called to practice a rhythm of hospitality at all times and in all stages of life. We practice it not because we're perfect in caring for others or because we never stumble in remembering the details of another's life or are wealthy or have a lot of free time. We invite the stranger into our lives because we answer Christ who calls to us through them saying, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Matt. 25:35).
Moving out of the safety of private orderly lives, we meet him in the lives of the marginalized, poor, and fatherless. The fatherlessness part of the equation interests me as my own father was killed in