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.