Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Releasing, Dec 14
Advent … a time of waiting and longing and desire. We live into this season of the church calendar in order to fully experience our deepest of desires which is for Messiah. We were created to live moment by moment in the satisfaction of relationship with Him. So, as we pay attention to that desire, it makes possible the experience of that desire. Frequently, we live at the surface of desire, toying around with things and people and activities, when infinite joy is ours. This joy is found in the depths of our being. We learn to wait so that we discover Him anew. We learn to listen so that we begin to trust Him. Now, we learn to release all other desires so that we experience inner healing.
We all have the tendency to put up protective walls around our hearts. When we experience hurt or disappointment, there is a natural instinct to say “never again” and we put up a protective wall. This hardens our hearts … it shrinks our hearts so that we’re don’t put ourselves “out there” to be hurt all over again. Consequently, there is not room to live and move and breathe freely. We live at the surface of desire because our hearts are small and crowded with all the protective artillery of an army ready to defend at a moment’s notice. At one level or another, this is the human experience. This explains why we struggle to live at peace with others. It explains why we get hurt so easily or lash out so frequently. Thankfully, God doesn’t leave us there. In Christ, we are brought into God’s family with the opportunity to experience renovated hearts.
How does this work? In Psalm 119:32, the writer declares: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” An enlarged heart is one which is free to run after God with abandon. This is the work of God in our lives as we learn to release and let go of all but Him. In John 10, we learn more as Jesus speaks of being our shepherd and leading us as we listen to His voice. Where does He lead us? Jesus adds to the shepherd image as He says:
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
The picture of salvation here is bigger than simply being saved from hell (although it includes that). It is an image of being able to move in and out of the sheep pen … finding our sustenance in “abundance.” Jesus says that this abundance of life is possible. It is also possible that we listen to the voice of the thief. What is that voice? It is the voice that says: “You’re on your own. You better protect yourself because no one else will.” It is the voice that says: “You can’t really live a life with God. That is for others, not you.” It is the voice which says: “You should just do whatever you want, because this life with God can’t be trusted. God is just trying to control you.” Jesus says it is the voice of a thief because he wants to steal and kill any hope that is present. These voices of the thief of the very reason why we have protective walls in our hearts. These voices of the thief explain why our hearts are often so small.
As we begin to listen to His voice, we will hear Him say: “Come back … return … let go … release.” In Isaiah 30:15-16, God graciously calls His people to a place of renewal. Notice the words that are used.
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds.”
The word “saved” speaks of being delivered and rescued by God in this life. We experience that as we return to Him. The word “return” could also be translated as repentance. Repentance is one of those words which has been turned into a harsh word screamed by preachers. However, repent is one of the most beautiful words known to man. It makes sense that the “thief” would distort the word in our thinking, because “repent” is a word which speaks of return and renewal and rejoicing. We repent when we let go of finding our strength in anything but Him. Notice that the people of Israel were unwilling because they wanted to put their trust in horses. To our modern ears, it sounds quaint and strange but horses were the ancient symbol of power and strength and wealth. If one had a horse, they could travel or flee danger or pursue their dreams. God offered Himself but the people wanted horses. We are often in the same place. God offers Himself but we want (you can fill in the blank).
Finally, God also says that it is in “quietness and trust” that we are strengthened. God graciously calls us to let go, to release all else but Him. The problem is that we can feel very weak. In quiet, we listen and learn to trust because letting go can feel like death! That’s because letting go involves a kind of dying. The great writer and woman of God, Elisabeth Elliot said, “Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes.” Brother Lawrence commented that:
“The heart must be emptied of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him.”
As we walk this mortal coil, we often feel that paradox of desiring God and yet desiring other things. The beauty of learning to release and let go is that God graciously invites us to let go. He doesn’t force us. He desires for us to come with open hands so that He can fill them. And, this is a process that goes on day by day as He invites us anew. It’s a relationship that has to be nurtured and He doesn’t overwhelm. He leads us one step at a time. The paradox will be there and it’s ok because He is never all we want until He is all we have. Jesus alone is the hope of the Gospel and it’s where He is leading us … open fields of abundance.
What do you need to release today? Don’t worry about all that you need to release but what is it today? Quiet yourself before Him and simply ask, “Father, what shall I release today?”
Father, I admit that I am a bundle of paradoxes. I want to live in You alone. I confess this is my deepest desire and yet I have other desires. Today, give me the courage to let go. Give me the strength to repent. Give me eyes to see those places of strength to which I cling that I might release all to You. Thank you for Your patience and grace and leading in my life. Enlarge my heart. Amen.