The Coming of God
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
Prepare the Way of the Lord (Luke 3:4)
About ten years ago, I was assigned to be the social worker to an elderly man who was having some medical and emotional difficulties. I was told that the nurse who was supposed to help him get well wouldn't go on a visit because of the condition of the man's apartment. When I made my first visit, the man wouldn't let me in and it took a few weeks before he let me in. And oh, boy! The apartment was cluttered with garbage all over that one could hardly move around and the garbage was, I kid you not, about five feet high. The smell was almost unbearable. I went in there week in and week out for several months and was able to develop a good enough relationship with him so that he began to trust me. He was without family or any social support and found comfort in hoarding. But when he found someone he could rely on for support, he was finally able to let go of his garbage. We cleaned his apartment that eventually paved the way for his nurse to come in and do some work of healing. When people asked me how I was able to bear it for those few months sitting surrounded by garbage and unidentified moving critters, I basically thought, "If we waited for him to get himself together and clean up the mess, then I doubt we would have gotten in to do what we need to do- that is, heal his body and spirit. We don't wait to be invited; we invite ourselves.”
One of my favorite religious figures, the late Dorothy Day, founder of the radical Catholic Worker Movement once said "Life itself is a haphazard, untidy messy affair." Life is never neat nor nice all the time. Life could be messy. Last weekend, some of us did a Bible Study on the ancestors of Jesus, and we all found out that Jesus did not have a stellar pedigree. We all learned that some of his ancestors were cheats, liars, prostitutes, adulterers and apostates. When I asked the group what they thought of Jesus' family tree, someone remarked "Complicated!" Indeed, human life is never tidy nor neat, but complicated and messy. But the Good News is that God in Jesus made himself at home with human family that was complicated, untidy and messy.
God does not wait for us to clean our mess in order for him to come in. God does not demand that we get our act together before he loves us. No...What God does is that he invites himself into our lives which sometimes are messy. Or I should say, God invites himself into our lives all the more when life itself is a mess. Sometimes, he just barges in without being invited so that he could do some healing in our souls, in our lives, to help us, so to speak, clean up and let go of the garbage of the soul.
It is said of John the Baptist that he proclaimed the necessity of preparing a way of the Lord. "Prepare the way of the Lord! (Luke 3:4) Prepare. This could mistakenly lead us into believing that unless we prepare ourselves clean before God, he won't come into our lives. But that is not so. To prepare simply means being willing and prepared to let God come into the mess. Being prepared simply means surrender our mess to God. The great giant of Western Christianity, Saint Augustine was a rather honest man. That's what I love about him. In his Confessions, he declared "Angusta est domus animae mea, quo venias ad eam; dilatetur abs te; ruinosa est: refice eam." My house is too small for you to come in; but I implore you, do enlarge it; it is in ruins, but I ask you come to repair it.
A few years ago, I went on a retreat in a monastery of nuns somewhere in upstate New York. As part of their common life, the nuns would have a recreation period in which the retreatants and guests were invited to an afternoon tea. Towards the end of the tea, one of the nuns suddenly had to excuse herself because she said she had to go to a meeting. “What meeting?”, we asked. She voluntarily, without showing signs of embarrassment or shame, said she was going to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. It turned out to be that the nun was, at one time, an active alcoholic, but soon found some healing in AA in which the condition of healing is simply to surrender the mess she made of her life to God.
I can't read your soul. But if you find your soul, your spiritual house, in a rather messy and untidy state, just open wide the door to God and say, "God do come in. Pardon the mess, but do feel right at home. Mi casa es su casa"
© 2013 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a queer Filipino worker-priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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