Thursday, May 26, 2016

A House Unoccupied

Perhaps one of the most confusing passages in all of Scripture on the subject of demons (or evil spirits) is Matthew 12:43-45.

When an evil spirit comes out of a person, it goes through dry places looking for a place to rest. But it doesn't find any. Then it says, 'I'll go back to the home I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean, and in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself. They enter and take up permanent residence there. In the end the condition of that person is worse than it was before.

I always wondered, if this is truly the case, then why would Jesus cast a demon out of a person in the first place? Wouldn't the man be better off with the demon he already had than with that one plus seven other more wicked demons living inside of him? How could Jesus condemn a man to a greater possession than He frees him from?

But this was before I understood very much about demons. 

It's before I understood that demons are not what we see of them - they are not emotions or manifestations or stories or feelings; they are unseen. They are the darkness not that settles over us, but that grows from deep within us. It's before I understood that demons do not inhabit the body; they dwell in the heart.

And I think this is what we miss. We so often confuse our demons with what we can see of them. When they are cast out, when they leave, we spend a lot of time cleaning up our lives - sweeping out our houses. When we no longer feel shame, we set about sweeping the dust of shame out of our lives. When we no longer feel insecurity, we set about sweeping the cobwebs of insecurity out of our hearts. When a painful or difficult chapter in our lives closes, we set about creating a blank page between that chapter and the next. And we're pretty sure this is enough. We're sure this is what our lives are meant to be.

Empty. Swept out. Clean from the residue of the demons that have inhabited us. The good life is the life in which the bad things are noticeably absent.

But the heart was not made for vacancy. If you don't live in your own heart, someone else will.

Enter the eight demons.

That's the biggest mistake most of us are making. We don't want to live in our own hearts. We don't even want Jesus to live there. We spent all of our time, all of our energy, cleaning out the remnants of demons that have once dwelt in the depths of our souls, sweeping out the dust and cobwebs of the things that used to haunt us. But the truth is that we find the empty chambers more haunting even than the demons, and we refuse to move into our own hearts. We refuse to take up residence in our own stories. We refuse to let God do the same.

We leave our hearts empty, our lives "clean," our hearts vacant, hoping that one day, they won't feel so empty. Then, we say, only then, we will move in. But how are our hearts ever supposed to feel like home if nothing lives there? How are we supposed to make it our home if we never fill the halls with our own voices? 

It's the greatest challenge, I think, for so many of us. We have to move into our vacant hearts and start making this empty space our space, even while the voices of our demons echo off the hollow walls. We have to step boldly into the space that used to hold our greatest insecurities, our toughest trials, our most tender pains, and we have to make this space our space. We have to make ourselves at ourselves. And we have to take Jesus with us. 

Because you weren't made for an empty life. The heart was not made for vacancy. And if you won't live here, well.... 

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