The Shepherd and the Dragon

“If I want to open this space to you, I need to be able to do it while it’s a mess.”

Welcome.

I’ve used that word a couple of times in the beginning pieces here, and I am coming to see what a good, compelling word that it is.

"Old English wilcuma 'welcome' [is an] exclamation of kindly greeting, from earlier wilcuma (n.) 'welcome guest,' literally 'one whose coming suits another's will or wish,' from willa [meaning] 'pleasure, desire, choice' + cuma [meaning] 'guest.'"
(Online Etymology Dictionary)

I desire this blog space to be hospitable: I want visitors to feel welcome, to feel as though, as my choice guest, their choosing my site to visit is a good thing for them and for me. 

Imagine if I were preparing a dinner party and came to the door with my heart unsettled and my mind preparing ammunition for battle. That would definitely not be very welcoming. As we all know, when we are engaging with others in this world, we can’t just act however we want. But being welcoming doesn’t mean, I think, never venturing out of the realm of talk that tickles and well-fitting masks that always present the happy side of life. A middle of the road approach, however, would not appropriately balance out these two extremes either; it would just be meh. But, when a soul is under the control of the Spirit of Christ, who renews and transforms, that sets a different standard. 

An important step of my learning this concept was the acceptance of everything not always being “just so” in my house or my head. As I said in my first post, Welcome to a Decluttering Blog, “If I want to open this space to you, I need to be able to do it while it’s a mess.” While that was easily referring to my household and was also talking about the mess in my head (post-concussion, lingering neuro issues, crazy busy life that makes it hard to create complete sentences), there was also another motive.

There is another mess — a sin that affects my everyday heartlife:  the sin of self-preservation. There is a mrsdkmiller which I want everyone to be impressed with, influenced by, and desire to be like. And I am compelled to do whatever is necessary to keep that identity propped up and visible and any personal heart mess hidden. Sometimes the dragon of self-preservation whispers the call for deception; sometimes it pushes me to erect limitations to others’ access to me, to avoid too-prying eyes or probing questions. So I keep friends and loved ones at arms’ length, smiling and friendly and hiding behind a convenient “introvert” label, because there is no way I’ll let the mess be exposed.

This sin must be killed daily — hourly!  For the unregenerate man, the problem of believing that he can preserve himself is a sin because he cannot. To presume he can means he falsely believes two things: that his condition is not so wretched, not so direly in peril, that it can be preserved by any natural or mortal being, and that he is as able as God to preserve himself.  Rescue from this self-preservation — or self-righteousness — comes with heart-changing belief that Jesus saves. 

I am a regenerate woman who believes Jesus is the Son of God and counts Him as my Savior, and I know that nothing in me can rescue me from the vortex of wrath that was heading my way, and that only an all powerful God who is both just and the justifier is able to affect this rescue. So, in me, any drift back to this wretched condition is sin. But, glory Hallelujah, according to the concrete and eternal Word of God, He preserves me and keeps me so that I am safe. It’s a Shepherd-sheep relationship that is bound in parallel to the greater, supernatural and eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me [what we are made able to do — present tense]. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10-27-30)

What He has done in salvation is thorough and complete; Ephesians 1:13-14 says: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed [past tense] with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” The promise of the end is this, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring [future] it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). And in the middle, we are commanded not to “be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2), and to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). Being transformed and renewed — a passive, present tense inflection announcing that Someone else is making the action happen to us. 

This is a mystery indeed. I am commanded to do a passive action, but there it is.

Now, back to that dragon: my sin of self-preservation. I am pretty convinced, if I am obeying the command to be transformed and renewed, that attempts to preserve myself will result in conflict. I can’t do both. When I am protecting and preserving myself, I am foolishly and vainly trying to resist the Holy Spirit’s work in me. But our Shepherd slays dragons.

When I let others into my heart mess, and not just my house-mess and my head-mess, I am/He is shouting down the voices of self-preservation — for I hear His voice. I am/He is putting to death that self-identification that mine is an exemplary life — for He knows me, not the pretense of me. I am/He is declaring that I am not the preserver of my life, He is — for I follow Him.  The work that was begun in me will be completed in the day of Jesus Christ and I am so confident that nothing can snatch me out of the Father’s hand that ….  I can be a mess in front of you.

How is this welcoming?

What would it mean to others if they were to see that I’m okay with the debris of my life being on display, being the evidence of my need for Christ’s power in every day of my life? Would they perhaps relax their hold on their own self-preservation — even forsake it? What value is there in my having them as a guest in my world? Maybe that in casting their eyes around the room of my opened heart, they might see Whose honor I seek to acknowledge first, Who has provided the words of life, Whose mercy and kindness has kept me from falling forever, Whose majesty and glory fills my mouth with worship and praise. Who has called me and Whom I follow.

When I was a younger Christian, I wasn’t as aware of the dark passages and messy corners of my heart, so I gladly — proudly — bared each room and presented it as clean and ready for inspection, as if it was my effort. In time, I came to see there is much the Lord has to do with me still, and I can’t see how it will all be done before I am called to leave this world. But now I know that any worthiness has been and will be accomplished by Him. 

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

(Keith and Kristyn Getty/Graham Kendrick, “My Worth Is Not What I Own”. Taken from http://lyricstranslate.com/en/keith-and-kristyn-getty-and-graham-kendrick-my-worth-not-what-i-own-lyrics.html#ixzz3hsBfr0yV)

Therein lies the beauty of being loved by the One who makes the old into new, who gives life to the dead, who covers the stains with robes as white as snow — who renews and transforms me.

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