by Joshua Clemmons
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We are selective about who we let into those most private chambers of our lives. In the history of architecture, this hidden core is reflected in the varied layers of the home, with exterior gardens giving way to antechambers and halls, steadily moving into the more intimate living spaces. I live this. With small children and a hectic schedule, when we entertain, there is one room that is the last to be cleaned and is generally packed with items from other rooms and gated shut – the master bedroom. There is surely a species of imposter syndrome that corresponds to hosting a gathering with dirty laundry in the back.
These external spaces are apt metaphors for the interior lives we live. We have places into which we allow few. We even have spaces that we don’t go into ourselves, fearful perhaps of what might be living and growing there. Perhaps it is in these intimate recesses that God resides, waiting for us to find him – a kind of divine hide and seek. He is a Hidden God, but not far away. He is so close that we don’t dare see him – too close for comfort.
In the spiritual chambers of the heart, God is closer to us than we are to ourselves, so the mystics and theologians tell us. We are in some real sense alien even to ourselves in comparison with the de facto intimacy that God has with us by virtue of his holding us in existence, by his omnipresence, and his penetrating and all-knowing knowledge of us. This is disconcerting for our pride, but comforting to us in our humility.
I had a friend who used to clean his house before he’d pray as a kind of ritual act, gearing himself up for the Divine Guest. I have my own actual and metaphorical house that needs cleaning for guests, God included. Does God also have such a home? Our Hidden God goes to prepare a place in his own house with many rooms, we’re told. God will not be outdone in hosting.
We see both in the scriptures, this competition in generous entertaining. He beckons us to knock and assures the door will be opened. He also tells us to behold and know that he stands at the door and knocks, and if we allow him, he’ll make his abode with us – within us. I imagine that this is something like finding God within our interior and actually attending to him. We must learn to be present to his omnipresence.
A major difference occurs to me, however. I suspect that in the inmost rooms of my soul there are shadows and mysteries dark, truly dark – evils lurking there that put me in a diabolical solidarity with the likes of Judas. I imagine that Christ’s decent to the dead can be read as well as his decent into the depths of sinful hearts like mine where he goes to bring healing and light, mysteries that blind us because of their luminosity rather than their dimness. However, in the most intimate recesses of the House of God, there is simply light and unending glory unimaginable and incomprehensible.
G.K. Chesterton closes his masterpiece, Orthodoxy, pondering on what the “tremendous figure which fills the Gospels,” holds undisclosed. It was not his sadness, since we see him cry, nor was it his anger, because his severity was quite open to view. “There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”[i]
More on that to come….
May Peace be with us all.
[i] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Image Books, 1959), 170.