To the slight perplexity of my real estate agent, who looks askance at it every time I have a rental inspection, I have a small wooden cross fixed to the wall inside my front door, just over the light switch. It’s simple, nothing special, roughly made of untreated pine, but I keep it there as a reminder to start and end my day – whether that be working, singing, or just running errands – with prayer. A reminder that as a person of faith, I can be God to the people and creatures I meet on my travels – or I can not. It’s my choice.
When I come home to my quiet, safe haven in the evenings, I say under my breath the same prayer: Greet me in my solitude, oh God. There are times when it’s rote, a small, unnoticed and yet incredibly important part of my evening routine. There are times when it’s not.
I was struck, though, the other day, saying those words, my hand frozen a heartbeat away from the little wooden cross: seriously? You want to be greeted in solitude by the Creator of the universe? You want that pain-in-the-arse rebel, that inconvenient dinner guest who humbled the powerful and made friends with the wrong sort – you want that Nazarene carpenter, who was so much more than that, to share your evening with you? You want the Source of love and compassion, the Origin of your very being, to spend time with you? Alone, undeflected by the conversation of others on whom you often rely to turn attention away from you? Without the workplace mask of competency and professionalism behind which you hide? Given your emotional cowardice, are you sure you want to be greeted in your solitude?
Right, says the nasty, honest little voice in my head. Didn’t think so.
Because the brutal reality is, I might say all the right things (or not – sometimes it’s easier not to say anything), but I spend a lot of time shutting God out. Shutting myself off from searing compassion. Saying that I’m fine and keeping my head busy. Often it’s true. I am fine, I’m good, nothing to see here. Often it’s not true though. Scratch the surface, and I’m actually anything but fine.
I imagine what would happen if the Origin of life did take me up on my prayer and the narrative figure of Jesus did show up for dinner. I expect he’d have a few pointedly uncomfortable things to say to me – he did to most people in the gospels, after all. But then I imagine myself simply collapsing in tears – gulping, messy, undignified, snot- and saliva-spattered sobbing – and crying myself to exhaustion and rest in the arms of true, terrifying compassion.
And that just won’t do.
So for now, I’ll have to trust that the Creator of the universe – to whom all desires are known and from whom no secrets are hidden – is too pre-occupied with other things to notice that although I’d like to mean my little invitation, it’s kind of more of a general than a specific.
But I guess the Creator of eternity is probably pretty patient.