A very interesting (and decidedly encouraging) chat with a young Christian brother focused on a perspective many of us as believers needed to be reminded of. This fellow is serving with a missions organization in the Southern Hemisphere, and I thank the Lord for the Skype technology that makes our contact not only possible but amazingly easy and conversational.
In the course of our conversation he used an analogy that may be familiar to some (including as it turns out, my daughter), but which I hadn’t heard and which gave me something to think about.
The analogy characterized the self as a home (house, that is). In that home, we as Christians invite the Lord into our various rooms, communicating and interacting with Him there as appropriate whether it be the Kitchen or the Den. Each area of our home has a relatively level of intimacy attached to it in our demeanor, attitude and internal behaviour. That is, the intimacy of the entry way is quite different from that of the living room, and that affects the relationship offered and shared with those allowed access to either. In case of the Lord, the intimacy of our relationship with Him is reflected in what rooms are open to Him and what rooms, if any, are not. The question, then, is whether we have given Him full access including the bedroom as our most personal and intimate living space.
In fact we should phrase the question as to whether we have invited Him there. In the physical sense, tt is only there that we are open completely, without protection and facade. It is only there that we, by virtue of the reality of going to sleep, must completely let our guard down in order to rest. And it is only there that we awaken to a new day, in many ways setting the tone for our consciousness in the day to come. So it is in our relationship with the Lord. On in the most intimate portion of ourself is there established a genuine relationship with the Lord which sets the tone for our life.
If we have invited that Lord into every room of our being but not the bedroom, then we know Him, and he us, only at arms length. In that case the knowing is at least to some degree intellectual, not personal. With the classic North American (I am not familiar enough with other cultural groups to comment knowledgeably), who frequently has an intellectual approach in their stance in life, this is highly likely to be the case. Further, outward appearance conveys the mindset and not reality, so this situation is not likely to be apparent on the surface.
While our Lord desires that we know Him intellectually (since Scripture states that we are to understand and be able to explain the hope that is within us), He makes it clear that His knowledge of us is to be intimate at every level. We are too abide one within the other. That means that the bedroom of ourselves is a critical aspect of the relationship, in essence opening our Spirit to Him. We can not protect that aspect and truly know Him.
Now it is clear that as a sovereign God He knows us at every level He should wish. However scripture casts the relationship such that He is not pushy in the sense of coming uninvited or unwelcome to our inmost sanctuary. Though we are regenerate through the touch of the Holy Spirit and only thus capable of turning to Him, it is nonetheless only by our freely inviting Him that the relationship is constructed – willingly seeking Him in prayer, Scripture and thought (attitude). Since our mindset determines our stance, it is through leaning on Him for our self-image and value, in whatever might be our places of weakness, that he is invited where we allow or invite no-one else. And in that we have full relationship with Him.
It bears repeating that this is not to say that the intellectual aspect is not both important and encouraged as we seek understanding, but it alone can not lead to a complete knowledge in Him and life in Him. Put another way, one can understand a place but still not live in that place. On that other hand, with the Lord invited and part of the our inmost self, the other types of understanding fall into place as He (note, not we) sees the need and are icing on the cake.
Elisabeth Elliott, in her excellent book Discipline: The Glad Surrender (ISBN 1-85078-302-0), reminds us that the Lord did not promise us sufficient information for intellectual satisfaction on our path in Him. He only promised us enough information to be obedient. That obedience in relationship with Him can only occur and be satisfied when we have invite Him into, and surrendered, the bedroom of our self.