Advent is my favorite season.
I think it’s because it’s a gentler, warmer kind of penitential…you know…a cleaning of the heart.
A recalculating of our direction. Time to take a good look at our physical and spiritual nests, as it were. Like Mary would have been doing to welcome Jesus.
I am a terrible housekeeper. Both kinds of housekeeper.
So I think Advent really resonates with a gentler, maternal side of me that doesn’t often come out. Or get much practice.
So in light of actual housekeeping — I bought a Roomba some time ago.
I loved it!
And everything was going fine.
I even named it Kevin, after my partner in ministry, so that I could casually mention around the office that “Kevin is cleaning my apartment.” SUPER FUN. And you can control it from your phone – so Roomba Kevin will tell me when he is finished cleaning my apartment. And then I announce it to Actual Kevin.
And everything was going fine.
And then one day, I received this text message:
And I thought to myself, “well gosh Kevin, get your life together.”
It’s possible I said that out loud. In the office. And Actual Kevin did not appreciate my candor.
And then awhile later, I got this text message:
When I got home that night – Kevin was just sitting in the middle of the floor. Turns out dark colors on the ground sometimes look like stairs/cliffs to a Roomba. So it thinks it’s about to fall. I have some black patches in the design of my living room carpet. Mystery solved. Roomba Kevin had run out of battery while waiting for me to come home – so I placed him on his charger and moved on with life.
And everything was going fine.
Until a few weeks later — I got 2 more messages like those – and didn’t think much of it. Except this time when I got home. NO KEVIN.
LIKE I LOOKED UNDER ALL THE THINGS.
KEVIN HAD LEFT THE APARTMENT.
Weird. It’s not a big apartment. And I actually did look outside both doors. I whispered, “Kevin?” Not sure why I did that. I was perplexed – but how do I admit to someone my Roomba had run away from home? No note, no text, no phone call. Also – wherever Kevin was – he was probably out of battery life. I figured Kevin would eventually pop up somewhere – so I posted my First World Predicament on Facebook and moved on.
So days later and after a record number of helpful comments (and also some not helpful albeit appropriate and clever mockery), I took another look for Roomba Kevin and found him under a dresser that had all kinds of things in front of it – thus I didn’t see him the first time – but also there were so many things piled up in that space that it would never have occurred to me that Kevin could have gotten himself in that spot in the first place…which is why I wasn’t looking where he was.
But I was overjoyed! Kevin had been found! I moved all the things, crawled under all the things, rescued Kevin, cleaned out his brushes and his dirt contraption thingy and put him back on his charger to rest and refresh. Kevin had come home.
And it occurred to me – this is how the father in the Prodigal Son story felt.
This is why he was killing the fattened calf and throwing parties.
And I was pretty pleased with myself for making this astute spiritual connection.
Except then I started thinking some more.
And I realized…I am not the father…I am the Roomba.
Sometimes I wander around picking up random stuff…stuff of the world…
…or I can only see and handle what’s right in front of me…
…and sometimes I see things in a twisted way – like the carpet…
…and sometimes I fall off the cliff…
…and sometimes I get pushed off the cliff…
…and sometimes I jump off the cliff myself…
…or I get stuck somewhere…
…and I don’t ask for help because my batteries run out…
Sometimes I even work pretty hard to get myself into places of darkness and sin where no one will find me. That place where my Roomba was — had probably never been cleaned – it was one of the dustiest, dirtiest spots in my apartment – because there was So. Much. Stuff. In the way. Why am I attracted to those places? Why are any of us?
The astounding difference between me leaving Kevin there and the father in the Prodigal Son story is that I blew things off and went days without looking. The father in the story and God our Father – is always the first to notice that I am missing and is always continuing to look for me. In fact, God probably knows exactly where I am – and He does not even ask that I come to Him. He comes to me. He wants to meet me exactly there – in the deepest, darkest, most terrible place in myself. The place that is scarred by sin. And He desires to love me right there amidst my sin. He desires me to believe that He loves me right there.
And that is hard to believe. But it’s true.
And there’s more. There is always more with God. Way more. He doesn’t leave me there. He desires to restore me, to heal me, to reconcile me to Himself. He does this through the person of Jesus – and His life, death, resurrection and ascension. THIS is the REALLY GOOD NEWS.
But I have to say yes. I have to accept His love. God is a Gentleman. He will never force or coerce me to love Him. Because He knows that isn’t true love. And I desire true love. I have to choose to surrender that brokenness, surrender that dirt, and weak battery, and everything that comes along with it and let God heal me and fill that emptiness with His actual divine life and gifts. And I need to accept that I am able to have a friendship with God through my friendship with Jesus. And that’s the REALLY REALLY GOOD NEWS.
This is Week 2 of Advent – the Old Testament meets the New Testament Sunday when John the Baptist becomes the voice prophesied by Isaiah “the voice of one who cries out in the desert, make straight a way for the Lord.” and I will probably never not think of my Roomba – me — crying out like John the Baptist in the desert – this is a call to me – to learn to ask for help. To learn to be a more attentive housekeeper. In my own house as well as my spiritual house. I’m going to challenge myself to make a resolution, get to confession, unclutter my heart and my little corner of the world so that I don’t get full of dirt and junk, lost, stuck, and so that God can get to me more easily.
Sometimes I need attention. Sometimes I am stuck. Near a cliff.
It’s fun to think maybe God has little notifications for all of us. But the truth is — and my heart created in the image and likeness of God already knows: He doesn’t need them.
Sidebar: this late post falls on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary…the day of my favorite line in all of Liturgy: #PrevenientGrace
More on that later. Listen for it in the Prayer Over the Gifts at Mass today if you can.