by Emily Conrad
We moved our full-sized bed down into the guest room today, making room for a new, king-sized bed. Moving a bed reveals everything that’s accumulated underneath. We’ve been in this house a year, and a decent amount of dog hair and dust can accumulate in that time.
I swept the area and took a rag to it while I had the opportunity, though with two dogs who sleep right next to the bed, the hair is only going to pile back up in unreachable places once we get the new bed in.
Sweeping with the knowledge that my work wouldn’t last reminded me of Jesus talking about casting out demons.
He said that when a demon is cast out of a person, it goes looking for a new place to live. Not finding a comfortable home elsewhere, though, it returns to the person it left.
“When it returns, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:25-26, NET)
If Jesus cast out a demon, I would expect it to stay out, so as I swept my house clean today, I began to wonder why a demon would return.
I read the passage, and right after Jesus says these things, someone cries out a blessing on the woman who raised Jesus.
But he replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (Luke 11:28, NET)
Our lives and spiritual health aren’t dependent on simply getting rid of the bad; we must add the good.
The NET Bible study tool explained that the implication of the house being swept clean and in order is that the person never invited in a different spirit to take up residence in the void left by the demon. So when the demon came back, it found there was room to move in–with friends this time.
The spiritual life isn’t just about cleaning up our messes and calling ourselves clean. It’s about inviting the Holy Spirit in to take up residence. He’s stronger than Satan, so He has the power to overthrow him and the power to keep him and his demons out. For good.
But even after we invite Christ into our souls, chances are there are still corners of the room where we haven’t given Him control. Places where, if you will, something akin to dog hair can collect.
Worry, for example, isn’t a once-and-done problem for me. It loves to creep back, accumulating until tumbleweeds of its troublesome friends–anxiety, selfishness, despair–are rolling around the entire room, making everything unpleasant.
The solution to this ongoing problem isn’t just sweeping the gunk out of the corner. It’s not just vowing to stop worrying or speaking in anger or thinking negatively or whatever other thing we struggle with.
Once we determine to clean up, we’d better invite Christ into that corner to take up the space left behind by the old habit. If we don’t, that sin will come back to haunt us.
I’ve found help in having Bible passages memorized so I can access them at any time, like when I’m trying to sleep but find myself worrying instead. With God’s help, I hope to start meeting it immediately with Scripture and prayer so that it doesn’t even have a chance to settle in my mind.
Accountability partners, prayer, service projects, giving, journaling, and worship are all additional ways to keep our hearts and mind clean when we use them to invite God into more and more corners of our heart space.
When Jesus is in our lives in increasing measure, less space remains for that which would harm us.