If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, you will find no wickedness in me. – Psalm 17:3 (NRSVUE)
I don’t know if this is still a thing, but when I was growing up, people just dropped in. If they were in the area, they’d knock to see if you were home. Neighbors didn’t even knock. There’d be footfalls on the porch, yoo-hooing through the screen door, lots of chatter, maybe coffee, always laughs.
My mother loved unexpected company. She was happy you came even if you caught her in her ratty robe, screaming bloody murder at the kids, or tossing dirty laundry down the stairs. Whoever stopped by, even at night, you got what you got. She didn’t care.
Our psalmist does. He keeps an immaculate house. No dust bunnies in the corners of his soul, no greasy pans in the sink of his heart, no ethical laundry in a fetid heap. He almost dares God to catch him in a ratty robe. Not a chance.
Now, there’s much to be said for the impeccable life he plans to offer God if God should just drop in. The Bible commands a certain moral seriousness, after all. But it can be an odd and cheerless way to be in relationship, always running a white-gloved finger along the baseboards of your conscience, testing for dirt, proving yourself.
You could hope instead, as my mother did, that the company matters more than the conditions. You could trust that if the Visitor yoo-hoos through your door unannounced, it’s for coffee, not moral inspection. A dropping-in God will never find us without wickedness, but surely the joy of the encounter will cover a multitude of sins.
I’m not presentable, God. Never will be. I’m glad you’ve come.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.