IVP - Strangely Dim - The Unexpected Guest

October 13, 2011

The Unexpected Guest

About six months ago someone moved in with me and my husband. He's not really the ideal guest. In fact, his presence is quite disruptive to our lives. He's short, sort of bald and kind of chubby. He's very demanding and not very productive. Basically he just eats, sleeps and lays around a lot. He doesn't pick up after himself, do laundry or put away his dirty dishes. He tends to whine when he doesn't get his way. He's all about his own needs. And I don't think he's going anywhere anytime soon.

He's the best thing that's ever happened to us.

When we had our first child back in May, we knew that it would mean some big changes. Everyone warned us. "You'll never go out again." "You won't feel rested for the next twenty years." "You'll never have your own life."

Some of those predictions were rather exaggerated, but the kernel of truth is there. When a baby comes, your life is forever altered and never again your own in the way it was before. Bringing a baby home is truly an act of radical hospitality. You open your home to a complete stranger who is more needy and demanding than anyone you've ever known. Beyond an evening meal or a few nights' visit, this person is with you all the time. You're not just opening your home. You're opening your entire life.


My friend and colleague David Zimmerman recently wrote a booklet for IVP titled The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. In it we hear the story of a woman who gets an unexpected visit from Jesus, a house guest who has this off-putting way of just hanging around all the time, poking his nose into things, asking questions and generally wanting to have input on every area of her life.

Like having a baby or getting married, we don't really have any clue what we're getting into when we "invite Jesus into our lives." It's only after Jr. has come home from the hospital and  life is now orbiting around a new axis that you realize, wow, this is big. And it's only after you begin to understand that Jesus really does expect you to lose your life to save it that you realize, wow, this is game-changing big.


Extending true hospitality to Jesus means allowing his agenda to change my agenda, digging through and cleaning out the junk, and opening myself to the risky proposition that he will likely require more of me than I'd ever thought I'd want to give. Through the experience of having my son, I'm learning that extending hospitality to Jesus often happens through extending hospitality to people. And people are real life, baby. Wiping bums, cleaning spit-up or staying home with a sick, cranky boy instead of going out for a night with friends is just so much grittier, so much less romantic than sitting in my prayer closet, quietly assuring Jesus I've cleared out a room somewhere in the back of my heart where he can crash for a while.

As much as I'm training our new little bundle of joy, he's really training me. Dirty diapers are the crowbars God is using to pry open my neatly buttoned-up life. And those training sessions are helping me move from showing hospitality here and there to being a hospitable person, open to loving and serving each one who crosses my path. For as Mother Teresa says, "Each one of them is Jesus in disguise."

Posted by Rebecca Larson at October 13, 2011 1:55 PM Bookmark and Share | TrackBack


Love the essay and insights. Love you and Jeff--and the little teacher.

Comment by: Carolyn at November 3, 2011 1:20 PM

Comments are closed for this entry.

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Strangely Dim

Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

Subscribe to Feeds