Cover image: Jesus at the Door (Jesus Knocking at the Door), by Del Parson.

As a dutiful eight-year-old, I had the rare good fortune of being assigned to a second-grade teacher whom I adored then and love still. She was a spunky, brilliant, beautiful Hawaiian woman named Mrs. Okasaki. I respected her so profoundly that the eight-year-old me would never have dreamed of saying her first name out loud! Many years later I reclaimed contact with that mighty mentor when she was called to serve in the general Relief Society presidency of the Church. She became Sister Chieko Okasaki to me then and forevermore.

I loved her in the second grade because she was so persistently nice and because I was teacher’s pet (but then, the truth was, everyone in the class rightfully claimed that title). I also loved her because she invited me to stay after school every Tuesday for a month to learn to do the Hukilau, a hula dance with actions I memorized so thoroughly to please her that I can still practically sing and perform it in my sleep.

Later, my affection for that unforgettable mentor was fortified by countless life lessons I hungrily devoured as I studied as many of her talks as I could get my hands on.

One story – a parable really – seemed profound to me the first time I heard it and more profound to me every time I thought about it thereafter. I probably don’t remember the title or the details exactly as she told them, but I call it “The Savior in the Guest Room,” and I recall it as follows:

We are all familiar with the image of the Savior standing at a door and knocking. We always note that that door has no doorknob on the outside. We refer to that iconic image as we suggest that the Savior will not – almost cannot – enter our homes uninvited. He is patient and deferential to the sanctity of our own agency. We must invite Him in.

Sister Okasaki suggested in her parable that the Savior does figuratively come to our homes and, perhaps, knocks on the front door. We likely invite Him in, but then with awed regard for the holiness of the visitor and self-conscious awareness of our own imperfections, we quickly usher Him to the small study or guest room adjacent the living room. We respectfully assure Him we will return soon before we hurry off to attend to the essential morning tasks of our day. Breakfast needs to be prepared and quickly served to the kids before they leave for school, the baby has a diaper that needs changing, the laundry needs starting, and we haven’t even dressed for the day. As soon as we have hustled through those daily tasks, we begin to receive pleading calls about forgotten homework and a neighbor who needs a ride to the doctor and care for her preschooler while she’s at her appointment. You know about days like that.

It’s late afternoon before you head back to the guest room to sit at the feet of your honored guest, but the baby awakens from his nap and the dog runs away and you delay yet again. Finally, that evening, after the dinner dishes are done and the children tucked in, you make your weary way to that patiently-awaiting visitor. He is, of course, still there.

You take a deep breath before you enter the room to apologize for the wait. He calmly listens, then says, “You didn’t need to protect me from the details of your life. I know all about that. I didn’t come to be hidden away and saved from messiness. I came to help.”

Perhaps we are too careful about trying to keep the Savior away from the dishes and the diapers and the duties of our lives. Perhaps we miss some of the blessed help that is available to us from the Savior who knows and loves us here and now. Surely He delights in dining and dwelling with us in the details of our dailiness.

The scriptures are full of illustrative stories of the Savior who ministered to those who lived on the earth when He did. One by one, he attended to them in the details of their lives as they went about their business and met the normal demands of their day. He met the woman at the well where she went daily to draw water; He healed a blind man as He walked with His disciples on a road in Jericho; He responded to His mother’s request that He provide wine for a wedding feast.

Perhaps He is likewise eager to be with and help us in our dailiness. A woman who suffered a stroke petitioned the Savior to be with her as she lay in a hospital bed day after long day while she recovered whatever physical functionality she could with His help; a young woman sought the Savior’s illumination as she studied for and then took end-of-year tests, trusting that He would help her remember what she had studied; a father believed in the nearness and caring availability of the Savior when he had a job reversal. The living, loving Lord is eager to meet us in the moment. We may choose to hang a photo of Jesus on the wall as a symbol of the Son of God who lived long ago or, better still, we may choose to invite the living Christ into our lives as the Savior who lives and loves us in intimate, customized ways, now and always.

In spite of the miracles the Israelites had seen and experienced during their exodus from Egypt with Moses leading them, their memories were short. When that mighty prophet left them while he communed with the Lord on Mt. Sanai, they melted down their precious metals to craft a golden calf. Astonishingly, they chose to worship that lifeless idol rather than the living God who had led them from bondage. Surely the living God is more demanding than an idol or a photo on the wall, but He is infinitely more visceral, personal, and promising. An idol makes no demands, but it likewise makes no promises.

Craving, seeking, recognizing, and choosing the proximity of the Savior in our lives is in effect choosing light. Some time ago, my husband and I attended a piano concert in a large university classroom. We assumed our seats in the concert hall eager to enjoy the musical program. The pianist was masterful, and the selections were exquisite. We were fully engrossed in the loveliness of the hour until, unexpectedly, the lights in the hall grew suddenly so bright we blinked with discomfort and shielded our eyes from the offense. Once we had adjusted to the brightness, the fellow at the piano shared the backstory of what we had experienced. He said that prior to his performance, he had asked the crew controlling the lights to very gradually dim the lights in the room. After an hour of music, he signaled the team to quickly return the lights to the level they had been at when the concert had begun. The change was sudden and almost painful. We distracted concert attendees had been so engrossed in the music, we had not even noticed the dimming lights. We had grown so accustomed to the gradually decreasing light that returning to the original brilliance had been at first uncomfortable for us – almost painful.

Less proximity to the Savior translates to less light. If we content ourselves with less light, without even realizing it, we may find that the glory of his illumination is almost painful to us. Keeping the light of the Lord in the fully “on” position decreases the possibility of our growing comfortable or satisfied with anything less. In fact, if we maintain an awareness and an appetite for His full light, we actually feel dissatisfaction with and an aversion to darkness.

Every daily task is different when we do it with the Savior effectively standing beside us. We begin to see preparing meals as an opportunity to feed souls, our own and those of people we love as we share food, time, and conversation. Tucking a child in bed becomes an occasion to review the blessings and events of the day and to affirm the promise of the next. Washing and ironing white shirts turns into an exercise in readying priesthood holders for sacred duties. An eye cultivated to see the holiness in daily tasks enables us, figuratively speaking, to transform laying bricks, into building a structure, then to erecting a church, and finally, best of all, to constructing a temple of God. With the Savior as our companion, the mundane can become the holy. He is indeed eager to be invited into the messiness of our dailiness in order to transform both our lives and us.

If life occasionally seems dark and we doubt the possibility of achieving a nearness to the Savior, we can choose to believe in Him as we believe in the sun. The dark of night may be colder; it may be harder to see; it may be more dangerous; it may be more frightening. But we can know with confidence that the sun will return. We can know because we have seen more sunrises than we can count.

And we can believe that the Savior and the love of the Lord are never far away. When on occasion we haven’t welcomed Him in or can’t find Him in our guest rooms or anywhere else near at hand, we may feel colder, and it may be harder to see. But we can know that Christ does indeed stand at the door and knock. We can know that, because we have welcomed Him in and been blessed by the wonder of His love more times than we can count.

A young friend of mine in Southern California named Bethany shared with me her experience learning to discern and crave the Spirit of the Lord as her constant companion. As a young teenager, she had loved spending time in the home of a particular friend because of the feeling that filled the air in that home. That friend was a member of the Church, and her father was a sportscaster for a local sports channel, so Bethany had concluded that the feeling she felt was the result of the home’s owner being famous. She called it the “famous feeling.” Some years later, Bethany was introduced to missionaries for the Church and agreed to listen to their message. Every time she met with those Elders, she felt that “famous feeling” again. To her delight, she rightly concluded that she didn’t need to be famous, or even be in the company of someone famous to feel that glorious feeling. She needed to choose to live to be surrounded by the Spirit of the Lord.

I hope we will never settle for a drawing on the wall instead of a presence in the room. We can choose to invite Him, the Living Christ, into our lives always. We can invite Him out of the guest room and into every public and private place  in our homes and hearts. He already knows all of our secrets and He loves us perfectly. In His company and with His help, the dull, difficult, and ordinary can become bright, promising, and holy.