Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Unwanted Visitor

I had an unwanted visitor the other day – the small slimy green kind, cousin to the celebrity of the Geico commercials. I was cleaning up my lunch when I heard something scurrying nearby and turned around to find him staring at me from the top of the curtain. I screamed and leapt on the sofa. Thankfully my phone was within reach and I quickly started to call Moises, a Brazilian friend. But then I realized that he probably wouldn’t know what a “lizard” was and it would take too long to explain to him why there was a small green crocodile in my house, which is probably the closest definition I could give. So I called a South African friend who quickly came running over. I stood on a chair and watched as she chased down this lizard with a shoe and a plastic sack. She finally cornered him under the sofa but couldn’t hold it up. So I (still standing on the chair of course) held up one corner while she caught him and tossed him outside.

Now, I know what you are thinking, “Isn’t this the girl who lived in the bush bush?” Yes, yes. But it is quite a different thing to turn on the lights and watch the mice go scurrying into the darkness of the next room, when you are living in a cinderblock house with chicken-wire windows and a tin roof than when creepy crawlies intrude your cozy comfortable close-to-western style home. It’s a different thing to find a black mamba on a dirty concrete floor than a gecko on your nice clean carpet. He was definitely an unwanted visitor.

Sometimes I react to people the same way. I mean, have you ever had an unwanted visitor? You know that person who comes over just before dinner or breaks the quietness of your solitude to discuss their issues? I find that I am happy to spend time with people on weekdays, or to counsel students in work hours, at the time and place of my choosing, but on the weekend? In the evening? In my free time? Well, that’s when I hide behind the magazine in the coffee shop or walk the long way to the mall or linger a little longer in the vegetable aisle - all to avoid that inevitable meeting or intrusion into the comfort zone I’ve created.

As an introvert who spends her whole week extroverting, I guard my weekend and my free time with a fierceness, which would put most geckos or small green creatures to flight. I’ve got plenty of excuses for this, some of them even Biblical ones, but God has a gentle way of tearing down even the most stubborn of arguments. And this time it came in the form of a lizard who broke into my little comfort bubble and reminded me that my time, my space, my comfort are not rights to be guarded but gifts to be enjoyed.

Yes, I need rest time, but maybe having breakfast with someone from work wouldn’t hurt. Maybe going out of my way to say “hello” to a student in the mall rather than ducking into the nearest store to escape their meeting wouldn’t be so terrible after all. Maybe walking with someone to the store wouldn’t be such a great inconvenience. Maybe giving up a little bit of “me” time to spend time with a student wouldn’t be all that bad. Maybe that’s what Jesus would do. And maybe welcoming an "unwanted" visitor or two wouldn’t hurt after all…so long as they’re not the small green kind.

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