Contemplative Life

Cleaning Out the House

In Psalm 21:4, it says that David “asked life” from God and God “gave it to him – length of days forever and ever,” as the New King James renders it. When I read those words last week, I was struck by David’s request. He wanted life, and though David might have meant long life, what I heard in those words was a desire for the abundant life, life-to-the-full, the kind of life for which I long but don’t always feel.

So I prayed that same prayer. I asked for “life” from God even though I wasn’t entirely sure at that time what I meant by “life.” All I knew was that I wanted creativity, fullness and freedom to flood all the barren places within me.

And what I can tell you is that God has given me life – in unexpected and inexplicably beautiful ways, just in the past few days. But at the same time that He has freely given, He has graciously exposed. He has shown me that the life for which I long is different than the life to which I cling. It’s not the life that I planned or projected. It’s not a life I can claim or control. And it’s certainly not a life with me at the center.

What He is showing me is that true life – full life – is life on His terms, not mine, and this life only comes by consistently dying to my right to myself and my right to make decisions – even seemingly-insignificant ones. Like the right to choose whether or not I buy a cup of coffee. Like the right to decide how I structure my morning. He knows what I need (and do not need) and He wants to tell me how to use my time. He wants me to give Him complete control – to cede my entire life.

As I thought about this idea of ceding my life – my rights, desires, and decisions – to God, He gave me an image. It was the image of a house – my house – with Jesus moving in. However, Jesus wasn’t just “moving in.” He wasn’t just unpacking his suitcase in a couple of drawers. He was taking up residence with the intention of renovating.

Now, at this, I began to feel uncomfortable. I don’t know about you but I am one of those people who can’t watch home-makeover shows because I’m just too worried about what they’ll do to the place and how the poor couple will react when they return and find bright orange walls and a new art-deco-inspired light fixture. Frankly, I can’t imagine signing on the dotted line and allowing someone else to do whatever they want to do to my house.

But that’s exactly what happens when we ask for life from God. In order for Him to give it, He has to have free reign. He has to take up the space of our lives and redesign it so that He can more fully and freely inhabit it – and we don’t get to decide how this process is done. We don’t get to tell him where the pictures are hung, what carpet gets chosen and where we’re going to put the new washing machine. In fact, we don’t even get to say which walls stay and which walls go. We’re no longer the architect or interior designer of our lives… and we don’t get the right to protest.

And that is the difficult part. It’s disorienting to watch walls comes down and to have Him dictate what stays and what goes. For awhile, we might retrieve the furniture He discards. We might come back in and rearrange the rooms. We might run after our favorite couch or cling to that old yellow chair or insist the we reinstall the broken lamp in our bedroom.

But it’s in letting go that we receive ourselves back. It’s in dying to our right to say “yes, this stays” and “no, this goes” that we find life. It’s in releasing our plans, our design, and the very furnishing of our selves that we find life, because the One who renovates is the One who designed.

As we learn to let Him work – as we allow Him greater freedom to rearrange and reorder, to dictate and design – we find the our “house” begins to look more and more like it was designed to look. The spaces are being used as they were intended to be used. He show us that the laundry room was really a study and that the loft makes for a beautiful bedroom and the robin’s egg blue is the most suitable shade.

And so each day I’m learning to say, with Mary, “fiat mihi”: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.” I’m learning to stand on the sidewalk and smile as I watch Jesus remove well-worn furniture … and not just smile, but take direction, too. One day I want to be the one who carries out the oriental rug, places it on the curb and watches as someone else comes to pick it up, fully trusting that God will bring me something more suitable, something that matches the new interior.

I don’t know where you are in the renovation process – whether Jesus is currently knocking out walls or if he’s just taking down pictures – but I do know that what is required for this process to work is that we do not insist on our own way. So cede your control. Say your “fiat.” Sign the release, and every single day of the renovation, choose to consent, again. Trust that the finished product will be beautiful even when all you can see is sawdust and it feels like half the house is falling in. He who made us knows what we need – and if we let him fashion and refurnish, reorder and arrange – one day we’ll finally feel at home.

Share this post

Keep Growing

Do you want robust Spiritual Formation resources delivered straight to your inbox each week?

Explore Coracle's 2024 Vision, "The Light Shines in the Darkness"