"If thou could'st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell, dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, 'This is not dead,'
And fill thee with Himself instead..."
I read this in a book recently, and have been pondering it most of today. I find it hard to empty all of myself of self... just when I think I have accomplished it, I find more "self" that has to go. And the wrestling match begins again. Because getting rid of self is so very unnatural, and it feels like if I throw it out, there will be nothing left of me, and I will die. Self-preservation instincts kick in, and my mind and heart strain against the truth that there will be nothing left of me, and that is the point. That is the point! If I want Jesus to be the Lord of my life, then I need to get out of the way; He must increase into everything, and I must decrease into nothingness.
And that is not just a one-time prayer deal, when I can say some magic words and be done with all of me and filled with all of him in the blink of an eye. It's a commitment to a daily journey... it's giving permission to God himself to recreate me. But I'm such a sinful mess, that for him to recreate me, he has to break me first - weed out bad roots and demolish strongholds. I can't empty myself of my self. All I can do is release control while He digs deep and pries self out of me, like a bad tooth or like rusty nails out of a plank of wood. It's hard - it hurts, and it is not fun, to say the least. And sometimes I wonder why I gave Him permission to do this in my life... it doesn't make for a great sales pitch for a missionary girl to give to those she loves.
And then I remember what he is doing in me: He's cleaning me out, making me new, making me more like himself, preparing me to be able to know him more and deeper. When I am empty, I will not be dead, because He doesn't leave me as a dishabited shell - He fills me with His grace, mercy, peace, joy, and hope. The truth that he is taking all this time and attention to set me free and bring us closer together is amazingly profound... His love is amazingly profound! I know that he doesn't delight in making me bleed... I think he cries as much as I cry. But He can also see what lies beyond the pain, and he squeezes my hand and tells me to hold on, because something really beautiful is ahead. I don't know what it is, but I trust him.