House Pests

Last week, Charlotte commented on a post I wrote called The Price of Ego. It seems that she’s been challenged in her living situation, because she has an unconscious person visiting for about a month. I’ve found, as many of us who are always working at becoming more whole and more aware of our aliveness that there’s nothing more bitter to the ego than having a house pest underfoot.

We know that’s what they are: house pests. We say, “Oh, I have a house guest for a month,” but the roll of the eyes, the tone of voice, and the shrug of the shoulders indicating the awful weight of the guest all combine to mean house pest. Yet, in the spiritual kingdom, they are God-sent gifts, intended to cause us enough suffering that we may break free from the shackles of our little selves just long enough to see how controlled we are by externals.

I’m talking about myself, of course.

The Price of Hospitality

Over the years of our marriage, my husband and I have opened our home to scores of different people. Sometimes they’ve been relatives; sometimes strangers. Sometimes the people have been tiny babies that we’ve fostered; other times they have been angry teenagers or embittered, middle-aged wanderers. Like many other people of faith, we’ve housed addicts, drunks, righteous people, preachers, teachers, the physically and mentally ill, the homeless, the wounded, orphans. Sometimes, they’re just normal people who need a place to stay, or a place in between their past and their future. They have stayed for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.

They’ve driven us crazy.

We have loved them, and we’ve hated them.

We have served them dinner, given up our physical space, trusted them with our children (or not–and slept as a family in one room), welcomed their relatives, their pets, stored their belongings, adapted ourselves to them, trying to help. Our pests have driven our cars, worn our clothes, used our water, gas, and electricity. They have never given back to us an nth of what we’ve given to them, and I’ve come to see that they are not meant to. They are in our home and in our lives to receive, and even to take, from us until we feel pain right where we are attached to our stuff, or our egos, or our own self-righteousness and greater-than-thouness. They are there to get what God is after: a heart of flesh, in place of our hearts of stone.

It always happens that the irritation begins. The honeymoon is over within hours or days, maybe weeks or months, but it always ends. We begin to notice that the house pest has bad breath; they talk too much; they chew their food with their mouths open; they don’t use deodorant; they eat special foods and drink special drinks (ours are not good enough); they sometimes offend by being too loud; other times they are too quiet; they snicker at us sometimes; we make asses of ourselves just for their benefit, and then we hate ourselves and them. They roll their eyes at us, they use a certain tone of voice; they complain about just how awful it is for them to have to live in this situation (this situation that is costing them nothing but their pride, while it is costing us our pride AND a pretty penny); they make themselves available to us when they want to, but we, on the other hand, must be available to them whenever they want us.

We do not have lives of our own, when we have house pests.

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