Are You a stranger? | Dear God
Are You a stranger? you know–the kind I feel uneasy about. Even afraid of. Eager to avoid at any cost. The kind I’d rather not sit down with at any table of any kind.
Enemy-like. Perhaps lurking around waiting to pounce. Always with a secret agenda that won’t be for my good. Trying to spy out my weaknesses and vulnerabilities to take advantage of me. Anywhere, anytime.
Which means I have to be vigilant. Not the good kind of vigilance, but the bad kind. The kind that makes me want to hide from everyone—just in case he or she is one of ‘them.’
I don’t think You’re one of them, or I wouldn’t be saying these things to You. So no, You aren’t that kind of stranger. But I still have this question: Are You a stranger?
All morning the chorus of a children’s Christmas carol has been going through my head. You must have heard it a million times.
Dear little stranger, slept in a manger,
No downy pillow under his head.
But with the poor he slumbered secure,
The dear little babe in his bed.
Lyrics by Charles H. Gabriel, 1900
The carol is about Jesus, not directly about You. Still, if Jesus was a stranger, and was showing us what You’re like, then yes, You are a stranger.
Are You a stranger to me? I’d like to think not. But I wonder.
Karl Barth once preached a sermon to prisoners in the Basel jail. The bottom line was simple. Jesus was born in a stable. The stable wasn’t just in Bethlehem. It’s in each of us. In places we’d rather keep hidden. Yet You want to come into our stables and stand by us. For us, not against us.
So I’m going with this. You came in the form a little baby into a stable that smelled of animals and animal crap. The stable was real. So were the everyday worlds of people who didn’t seem to have much going for them right then. Like Mary and Joseph. Or the shepherds. Perhaps the innkeeper, too.
Just because stables get filthy dirty, it doesn’t mean everyone in them is awful. The baby did what babies do, but the baby wasn’t awful. Neither were the animals (that also did what they do) or Joseph and Mary, or the shepherds, or anyone else who happened to wander in when you were born.
Still, I think I understand. Stables collect stuff that needs to be cleaned out. I wince when people talk about how awful we human beings are. We aren’t! We’re created in Your image. Still, we do pile up our stinking stuff over time. Sometimes in a heartbeat. And someone needs to come in and clean it out.
For me the bottom line is whether I trust You to clean out the stuff in my stable without destroying me. Without shoveling me into the trash heap. I can’t think of anyone else who knows better how to separate the trash from the treasure in a way that honors me instead of shaming me.
But here’s the rub. This won’t happen unless I let You into my life instead of keeping You at a ‘safe’ distance. So, ironically, to get anywhere with this I need to open the door and offer You hospitality. The way I would to any stranger.
There’s just one more question on my mind. When I go to the door to open it to You, how will I know it’s You?
Your inquisitive and dearly beloved daughter-child,
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 February 2015