What’s hanging on your walls?

It was back to the office today after a refreshing four-week break. Tucked in the back of a sterile, mostly white medical clinic, “my” space to counsel clients actually belongs to one of the doctors on our integrated care team. Re-entering his room after a good stretch of time away, I was reminded of how much I don’t like its feel. Papers stacked, sample prescriptions strewn around, and blank walls that stare back so very blankly. I like cozy, and this space is anything but.

As I plopped down in the desk chair to prepare for the day, a passage I recently read came to mind. Though unsure of its exact source, I’m convinced it’s an extract from one of Henri Nouwen’s countless brief reflections. Here’s the gist:

Just like any room, every human heart has interior walls. Throughout our lives we collect items (images, quotes, experiences, keepsakes, etc.) that we use either consciously or unconsciously to decorate these spaces. Some of this decor may be life-giving, such as photos of loved ones or role models, or artistic masterpieces by our favorite masters. Other ornaments may be the opposite, like lingering dark memories or self-defeating protective devices. The point is that whatever accents our interiors creates a certain ambiance (perhaps welcoming, soothing, alluring, crowded, intimidating, guarded, or hostile) and sets the tone of how we respond to outsiders—either beckoning them closer or barring up and blocking out.

I love this mental image and its challenge to consider my heart’s interior design, to explore the energy I unknowingly project, and to question how I might rearrange in order to become more inviting to the friend, the kin, the angel, the stranger, and whoever else might come knocking at my door.

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What’s hanging on your walls?