“Can a Daughter of God Have a Messy Room?” Ensign, Dec. 1993, 30
Stake conference was almost over, and even the older children were getting restless. “How many more talks?” whispered my fifteen-year-old daughter, Adrienne.
“Just one—the mission president,” I whispered in her ear.
The mission president stood up and began speaking: “I want to thank the family I stayed with last night for their hospitality. I especially want to thank their daughter for letting me have her room.
“Let me tell you a little bit about that room. It had some of the usual things teenage girls have—a few stuffed animals and dolls in her bookcase, pictures of family and friends arranged neatly on her desk. Her copies of the scriptures were sitting on her nightstand, along with a pile of cards with scriptures written on them. But the thing that struck me most was the card tied onto her lamp. It said, ‘I am a daughter of God.’ What a marvelous thing for her to see every night before she falls asleep!”
As he extolled the beauty and cleanliness of the young woman’s room, I turned just in time to see my daughter jab her ten-year-old brother. He held his arm as his eyes filled with tears. “Adrienne hit me,” he whispered.
“Adrienne, what is the matter with you?” I hissed.
My daughter looked at me sullenly. “Nothing. He was bothering me.”
As we rode homeward after the conference was over, it was clear that Adrienne wanted to be left alone. When we reached home, she said, “I’m going to my room. I don’t want any lunch.”
After everyone else had eaten, I went upstairs to check on her. When there was no answer to my knock, I opened her door a crack. She was asleep, her tear-streaked face resting on the threadbare stomach of her favorite childhood friend, a floppy-eared rabbit. Her hair tumbled around it like a golden frame.
I smiled. She was so beautiful and so vulnerable—grown-up, but still a baby. Tenderly, I touched her still-damp cheek, and her eyelids fluttered open.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Adrienne turned her head away from me and sniffled. “No.”
“Can you tell me what’s bothering you? Maybe I can help.”
Adrienne sat up. “You can’t help. It’s me. I’m the matter. I’m no good.”
“No good?” I looked at her in bewilderment. “What do you mean?”
“Everyone else is always so perfect,” she said. “Like that girl the mission president was talking about. A perfect person with a perfect room. Look at my room. It’s a mess!” Her voice was getting shrill. “Nobody would ever talk about me that way. I’m no good, and I know it.”
Adrienne fell back on her bed and buried her face in the stuffed rabbit’s fur, sobbing. “I’m sick of perfect people. I’m never going to go to church again.”
I looked around her room. Clothes spilled out of the closet and lay everywhere. Her school books were scattered on the floor. Her desk was cluttered with containers of hair spray and perfume, candy wrappers, old seminary homework, and an empty piggy bank. The bulletin board above her desk was loaded with pictures of friends and rock stars; it tilted at a rakish angle because of the baseball cap hanging from one corner of it. My daughter was right about the room—it was a mess. But she needed to understand that she was wrong about herself.
I though for a moment. “Okay. The room needs work—maybe a lot of work. I know you’d feel better if you kept it cleaner. But if you believe that the things we see here actually say something about you, then let’s look around here and see what you’re really like.”
“A slob,” Adrienne said, peeking over the rabbit.
“Okay … the room is kind of untidy. But let’s look at some things besides that.” I picked up the piggy bank and shook it. “Remember what happened to the money you were saving for some new jeans?”
Adrienne sighed. Earlier, some of her friends in a school play had gone out for lunch after rehearsal. She knew James didn’t have any money, so she paid for his lunch. Now she sat up. “I felt so sorry for him. The last time we had a play, he was in it too, but he had nobody—no friends or family—to come see him. He lives in a group home. They treat him okay, I guess, but it’s just not like having parents.”
“That’s true.” I put down the piggy bank and took a picture of a smiling, dark-haired girl from her bulletin board. “How’s Barbara?”
“Oh, she’s okay now. She’s seeing a psychologist or something.”
I thought back to the day I had come home from work to be met at the door by a frantic, tearful Adrienne. “Oh, Mom,” she had said, “Barbara took some pills and then called me and told me she was committing suicide!”
“Oh, no,” I had gasped, sinking into a chair. “What did you do?”
“It sounds gross,” Adrienne had said, “but I made her vomit them. She promised me she would do it, and I made her hold the phone by the sink so I could hear. After that, I talked her into calling her sister to come and get her. Then I called Barbara back, and I stayed on the phone until her sister got there. Finally, her sister said that Barb was okay and that she would take care of things. But, Mom, I was so scared!”
I shuddered now as I remembered. “Why did Barbara call you that day?” I asked.
“I think she thought I was her only friend,” Adrienne answered. “But she’s made more friends now. I told some of the other kids how much she needs us, and they’re trying harder to be nice to her.” She looked around her. “But, Mom, what about this room?”
I went over to the bed and put my arms around her. “Adrienne, one of the things your room tells me is that you are a girl who loves people and tries to help them. What did Jesus tell us about our neighbors?”
“That we should love them?”
“And you love James and Barbara and many others enough to share with them and help them. Sometimes the things we see don’t tell what is in the heart.”
Adrienne managed a smile. “Maybe I’m not so bad then?”
“You’re not bad at all,” I said, hugging her. “Sometimes daughters of God can have messy rooms, and he loves them anyway.”
I led her to the doorway so I could take her downstairs to offer her some lunch. As I closed the door behind us, I glanced again at her room. Later, the two of us would need to work together on the lessons of order and cleanliness. But for now, I was grateful that our Father had helped me show her the vital principles of service she was already learning.