When my son was in third grade, he was asked, “What would you do if you had an hour with Jesus?”
Depicted with smiling stick figures of himself and Jesus, he wrote, “I would show him my room.”
At the time his room was his pride and joy. He had decorated every inch of wall space with images from all the cultures he loved, newspaper headlines of sports victories, t-shirts that were too precious to actually wear, and pictures of himself amidst various adventures. It was truly a reflection of a little boy’s heart and soul.
Fast forward nine years and that bedroom is looking a little bit different. While some of the same images, with yellowed tape, still adorn the walls, the lifestyle of a teenager has definitely settled in: dirty laundry (or clean—does it really matter?) now takes the place of carpeting, the desk is under there somewhere (I think), the closet door won’t shut, and I shudder to think what might be in the dirty cups on the night stand.
Being the good parent I am, I pulled out that little boy’s precious nine-year-old art work and taped it to his door, hoping maybe, with a reminder of wanting to show Jesus his room, it might get cleaned up a little. His response was simply a smile and an affirmation that God was welcome in his room any time just as it was. (There was some consolation in my teenager having a better sense of theology than I did!)
Ignatian spirituality tells us to “speak to God as a friend.” Whatever image one conjures in that space, it is meant to evoke the experience of letting in God. We don’t meet God just in the formal living rooms of our lives—where prayer might be rote, perhaps someone else’s words, and feels like sitting in straight-backed chairs. No, prayer brings God into the messy bedrooms of our souls that we tend to close the door on before company comes over.
God longs to meet us in that space that reflects our true self, with all the images of things that we love adorning the walls and all the messiness. He comes not to cajole us to clean it up, but to be with us in it. God smiles contently by what we have done with it, how we have decorated our lives, what we display that is most important to us, and the to-dos piling up on the desk. God even forgives all the dirty laundry on the floor! And when we let God into that space often enough, we start to think about cleaning it up a little, just to make a more comfortable room for God to sit a while.
This is THE ESSENCE of true, trusting and unconditionally loving relationships! So real, so natural, so human yet also, so divine!
You have expressed with a beautiful image what is foundational for me in a spiritual direction relationship. Thank you.
Beautifully written. So real!
A very powerful message. A truly personal and honest way of relating with God. I would be pleased to share this with my friends. Blessings to you and your love ones.
It make me smil how he reply and teach me. God bless you thank you. ??
God is not concerned about our messy “rooms”. We can feel His presence and also Mary’s presence just when we are lost in any messy “room” in our lives. God is not supposed to forgive us, no, because He love us so much and always waits for our coming back to Him. He is always there to remind us that we are His sons and daughters and He loves us exactly the way we are.
Thank you for this sensible article. I cherish it.
I am glad you mentioned Mary’s presence. I have a sense that she would be the first to help us clean up a little if we ever asked. Most mothers just do so naturally!
Beautifully written. A great groundwork for spiritual direction.
When my husband and I were in counseling with our then 15-year old daughter, the counselor encouraged us to consider interacting with her in this manner. Respond to HER invitations to enter her “house”: maybe the first step is to come up on the porch, then the living room, perhaps the kitchen when things felt more comfortable. But he cautioned us, how would you feel if someone walked into your house and started criticizing everything? Ugly furniture, stupid pictures, dirt on the floor? You’d probably not invite them again and for sure, they would never see the messed-up closet or basement! Our daughter needed to know we accepted and loved her regardless of her “house” even if we knew not every choice was a wise one. I can’t help but compare that to how God treats me. He longs for me to invite him into my house – not just the rooms that are cleaned up but even more so, the trashed closets and dark corners I hope no one ever sees. Thanks for this reminder today.
A parent’s love is so much like God’s. I will take ANY invitation from my kids to join them. Time with them is just too short and precious. I imagine that is what God feels with me as well.
I like your story and your Son’s comment. I need to reiterate more that God should be welcomed in all instances of my life not just the “nice clean” parts.
Katy, we all need reminders. Kids can be smarter than we give them credit for being.