Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Releasing, Dec 17
As we continue to walk toward Christmas in this season of Advent, we are wise to consider how Mary prepared room in her heart for Messiah. Mary was challenged to make room in her body to carry the Christ child, but it started with her heart. Mary was not an unwilling participant but she asked questions and pondered what it would mean to welcome the divine into her life in such a personal way.
We are invited to make room in our hearts for Christ as well so that we might display Him for the world to see. For Mary, she was approached by angel and immediately she began to consider the nature of what was going on. The angel called her “favored one” and Luke 1:29 says that “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.” The idea of “troubled” meant that she was not taking this lightly and understood that something significant was happening. Next, the angel shares that she will become pregnant and bear the Messiah. Rather than jump for joy at being chosen, she begins to realize the cost and ask questions. She realized that this would mean her world being thrown upside down.
How often do we fail to count the costs? We jump right in with joy at the prospect of God being at work in our lives and don’t ask the appropriate questions. Certainly, there is joy but we have to consider and ponder what it will mean to make room in our lives for Messiah. Mary asks the simple question: “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) More than a simple logistical question, I wonder if Mary was also considering: “What will this do to my reputation? Am I going to have to let go of my hope to get married and have a family?” Mary had to let go of her identity as a good young girl who was preparing to be married. We know from later accounts in the Gospels (cf. Mark 6:3, John 8:41) that people questioned the legitimacy of Jesus’ birth as they hinted at him being born out of wedlock.
Part of making room in our hearts for Christ is releasing our identity. We may see ourselves for what we are: teachers, doctors, builders, mothers, fathers, nurses, writers, caregivers, waiters, sons, daughters, spouses, etc. We might also see ourselves for what we are not: married (or, happily married), parents, gainfully employed, well-off, appreciated, etc. The list can fluctuate from season to season but whenever our identity is in anything but Christ first, we will struggle in making room for Him in our lives. We were not designed as human beings to hold on to any of these other identities for what gives us a sense of worth or strength or love. Christ will always get crowded out or reduced to simply helping us find our worth in these other identities. We are invited to let go, to release, these other places where we might find our identity.
Mary received that invitation and she said:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
We were created to live with a sense of identity in Him … relying upon Him to be our deepest sense of worth and strength and love. When we choose to see ourselves primarily in light of some other identity, we are running from our created design. Especially during the Christmas season, we can struggle with not feeling love or worth (perhaps even descending into the pit of loneliness) as we look at everyone else’s “perfect” Christmas cards.
Henri Nouwen, in speaking about identity, offered this:
“Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. You belong to God.”
He goes to say to say that we often allow others to become a part of our basic identity and we feel that we cannot live without them …
“But they could not fulfill that divine role, so they left you, and you felt abandoned. But it is precisely that experience of abandonment that called you back to your true identity as a child of God. Only God can fully dwell in that deepest place in you and give you a sense of safety. But the danger remains that you will let other people run away with your sacred center, thus throwing you into anguish.”
To prepare that room in our hearts, there are identities that we must release. Today, as you walk through your day, ask the Father to make you aware of those places and times when you are resting in some identity other than as a child of God. Emotions can often be our clearest clue that our identity is in something other than Jesus. It begins with trusting that you were made for something deeper than being in a certain relationship or having certain things or doing certain things. As you are aware of identifying with anything other than Christ, simply stop and proclaim, “I am a child of God, safe and secure and loved in Him.” This allows the releasing to begin, and as you release, He is able to inhabit your heart in ever deepening ways.
Begin now, take a few minutes and ask the Father to show you those “other identities” that you may be holding. And, then take a few minutes and put the following prayer into your own words:
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.