"I am humbled by such radical hospitality. I believe authors like Jean Vanier, Henri Nouwen, and Dorothy Day are right that the welcoming of challenging guests can be the locus of profound encounter and revelation. But this is hard: full of discomfort and messiness. I want an ordered, neatly organized life and a clean, well-lighted dwelling place: everything (even the guest) under my control. Opening myself to that which is unpleasant or threatening, or even just weak and full of need, reminds me yet again — uncomfortably — of my own vulnerability, weakness, and need.

"And yet however I might eschew them, I know it is through these cracks in my carefully constructed veneer that God can enter my life in a truly meaningful and transformative way, instead of serving as mere window dressing of a house otherwise in order by my own power. As much as I want to appear strong and 'together,' in my more truthful moments I know that God is less interested in congratulating the spiritually accomplished than in welcoming, holding, and healing those who realize and accept their own brokenness. Jesus spent his time among the sick and wounded and disgraced, and he had few kind words for those who saw themselves as morally pure and religiously impeccable. 'My grace is sufficient for you,' Christ assured St. Paul, 'for my power is made perfect in weakness.' 'When I am weak,' Paul then asserts, 'then I am strong' (2 Cor 12:9-10).

"What a different message than the popular culture's ideals of imperturbable strength, energy, control, and competence, or the perverted 'prosperity gospel' circulating among some Christians, which conflates material wealth and success with God's favor and blessing. Hospitality is often difficult, and hospitality often fails. In America, which so highly prizes the individual, I'm not sure that the fibers of the social fabric have ever been especially strong. And if one receives no welcome, it is difficult to extend welcome to others; the life of the community suffers, and the possibility for true belonging recedes."