The Empty House

Every Fall I think about this. Last fall I wrote about it. Here's one of my favorite oldie but goodies: The fall reminds me of my dear friend Sarah. We grew up together. Sarah has that fiery red hair that blazes like the leaves in October. We both shared birthdays in November and fall was our season. I was the cautious kid—afraid of everything. Sarah was adventurous. She wrote a poem about it once painting me as the fire burning brightly, singing my song while faithfully staying in its boundaries--she was like the sparks and embers that wanted to explore outside the edges. Sarah and I took a lot of walks. We made many discoveries. One day we found ourselves off the beaten path in Burkittsville (yes, Blair Witch territory, my mom lives very close by) when Sarah noticed “something cool” down the hill in the woods a little ways. We wandered down to find an old, derelict church. It was both creepy and cool at the same time. The main level was just the size of a small sanctuary, with a modest basement below. It had obviously been abandoned for a while, and yet everything seemed set up for worship. There was still a dusty, old bible open on the podium (we later took that). The empty pews looked sad to us. We imagined who could have worshipped there, and what had happened in their lives. This was one of our better discoveries. As a matter of fact, we decided to take my younger brother, Luke, there with her cousin, Dusty, for a second look. They were intrigued as well. My teenage memory is a bit foggy, but something like the third time we revisited this mysterious church, we discovered that we were not its only patrons. All of the pews were knocked over, and there was satanic graffiti on the walls. A few of us were brave enough to check out the basement (it surely couldn’t have been me!), when a loud noise came from nowhere. Needless to say, we burned the rubber off the bottom of our shoes getting out of there! It then became the place to go at night when we wanted to give our friends a good scare. My brother and his buddies used it as a sort of “man test:” who could stay inside the longest. I was thinking about this church on the way to my mom’s house yesterday. What an analogy it lends to our own souls. That empty church invited teenagers like us by the opportunity it loaned. I’m not sure how much I believe actual satanic rituals are in effect today. I think Satan usually works in far more subtle ways. But we know his more offensive symbols. Whoever painted them on the church walls was making a statement. They were bold in doing so because the church was neglected and there was no one to stop them. We can get pretty serious sometimes in mortifying our own sin. Many today confuse the gospel message with a message of morality. This world is full of do-gooders. We think that if we avoid major sin, and even throw in some environmentalism and social justice work that we are moven’ on up. But Jesus said, “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matt. 12:43-45). If we rely on our own efforts for righteousness, if we do our own cleaning, our adversary will see that as an open invitation. What we may think is full of goodness, he finds an empty space. Let’s let Christ rearrange our furniture. Let it be his house. Although, he does more than rearrange; he completely takes over, transforms, and sanctifies. Just think of how merciful our God is, turning our sinful bodies into temples of his Holy Spirit. And this being the case, God himself is the Lord of our souls. Who can separate us from his love? That mysterious church Sarah and I found looked like a church. But it was empty, abandoned. Sometimes we can look like good Christians, but our insides are full of spiritual cobwebs. As Spurgeon said, “Some of you have enough dust on your Bibles to write the word damnation across the cover with your own fingertip.” Are we just trying to be good Christians, displaying to others our moral superiority and sparkling boot straps, or are we repentant sinners who have been ransomed by grace. If we are in union with Christ, then our house in full indeed.