What happens when Jesus moves in next door? Do you throw out the welcome mat? Have him over for dinner? Watch every move he makes in endless awe? Not if you're me. If you're me, you run into the house quickly without saying hello most days. I run for cover, want to hide under the covers and protect my safe little life in our predictable - albeit chaotic - household.
The stories we have of Jesus make it clear that God shows up in the least desirable, the down-and-out...possibly, those who make our lives most uncomfortable. I see it everyday at my job. At my job, not at my house. The last few months I've realized I like it that way. I can see Jesus, hang out for hours, throw out all kinds of welcome mats all day long. Then I get to go home.
"How will we know it's you," the disciples ask Jesus in Matthew 25. Jesus' responds with the mission trip slogan many of us know so well: "clothe the naked, feed the sick, visit those in prison..." It's a much-romanticized passage, one that too many of us have used to drop in and do good works -- and then go home.
A young girl lives in the rental property next door to us, she's 8 or 9 years old going on 40. I suspect she's taken care of herself most of her life. I do not know the technical details, but it appears she's a foster kid, being cared for by adults who do not have much of an idea how to take care of themselves. It's abundantly clear that she's been wanting her whole life - wanting for attention, for support, for love. The adults in the household behave much like the adults I see all day long. There's too much drinking, not enough conversation; too much yelling, not enough laughing. And so this young girl does what anyone would do who doesn't get what she needs where she is - she looks elsewhere for the attention she craves, for the love she needs.
She comes to my house, this young girl, or other neighbors' houses until she wears out her welcome. For several weeks, she didn't come over when I was home - I'm pretty good at non-verbal communication, and apparently it was very clear I wasn't interested in her company. But my remarkable wife, and my open-hearted daughter are - thankfully - much better at welcoming Jesus than me. And they're pushing, in their own very able non-verbal ways, to get me to welcome her too.
Turns out that it's not enough to hang out with Jesus at work. God wants more of me than that.