A week or two ago, during our Bible study, my small group decided to look at Matthew 12 using the ancient practice of Lectio Divina. Through quiet reading and contemplation, we allowed the Spirit to speak to each of us through some element of the passage. Honestly, I went in knowing which section I wanted to focus on. Yet, all the while I knew that God had other plans, something else to say. As I reluctantly listened, he pointed me to a particular set of verses:
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first." (Matthew 12:43-45)
The goal of Lectio is to allow God to highlight a specific word or phrase from the larger passage. I have never been able to do this well--I am too indecisive and always end up with a ridiculously large chunk I've "narrowed it down" to. That night, however, the Spirit led me to one word: unoccupied. I could not stop staring at that word.
I thought about some recent battles I had fought, brutal fights to drive out the enemy from places in my heart. By God's grace, I had been spared from total disaster and was now trying to pick up the pieces and put things in order. I have done so with gratitude, but also with an element of fear; I know that the enemy still desires to bring death to that part of my heart. The years have shown me that he leaves us the same way he left Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:13): he goes away already waiting for a more opportune time.
What did the Spirit desire to show me through that chapter in Matthew? He wanted me to see that it is not enough to clean house. It is not enough to pick up the pieces and open a window hoping for some fresh air. We can walk free from sin for a period, and yet still leave our hearts unoccupied. We can get back on our feet, all the while leaving our hearts spiffed up like a hotel room, ready for uninvited guests who will just bring even more pain and destruction.
The most important thing I can do when picking up the pieces is to truly let God take up residence in my spirit, in those places of my heart that have been violated and vandalized by the enemy. I need to face and tear down whatever boundaries I have set up that have kept him from moving in. And then I need to put out the welcome mat and let the King of Kings, my Strong Defender, make himself at home in me.
Then, when the enemy returns for my precious heart, he'll find that someone's home: he'll find a heart that's occupied.