Is There Room?
A reflection on Casting Crown’s Make Room.
In telling about the story behind this song, the writer talks about how when he was a kid he’d seen the innkeeper as a villain. As he grew, however, he realized that, as he says, “The innkeeper in Bethlehem wasn’t a bad guy. He was just a guy. He was just a guy getting through his week. He had a million things going on, and when Joseph and Mary knocked on his door, he was just really busy”. Isn’t this how we all feel so often? It’s not that we mean to keep God at a distance, we’re just really busy getting His work done. I strive care for my patients with hands that would speak of God’s love, and to teach exercises that would help bring physical healing. My mind is full of writing teaching and reference resources, and searching for ways to show that our medical services are making an objective difference. Though I make room for God’s work in my day, I don’t necessarily make much room for His work in my heart. I may be pretty consistent in sitting down with my Bible during breakfast each day, but how much room do I really make for God in that time? Unlike the innkeeper, I know who Jesus is, I’ve committed to serving Him, and I’ve already carved out a few minutes in my day for Him, so why do I still not make room for Him in my heart?
There is a She Reads Truth study on hospitality called “Making Room”. One of the authors wrote, “Hospitality, I am learning, is often untidy and almost always inconvenient. But making room is not about my own comfort. It’s about taking something I presume is mine, and offering it to someone else.” Untidy, inconvenient, uncomfortable, sacrificial. If I wanted a perfect dinner in a polished environment with attentive service and no interruptions, I’d go to a classy restaurant, not a friend’s house. When I dine with friends, I want to feel at home. So how do I show hospitality to the God who calls us His friends? Do I try to get everything just right, and if I can’t, do I tell Him to reschedule for a time suits me better? Or do I let Him into my mess and share the home of my heart with Him?
I first heard this song during a brief trip back to Canada. I was tired from the weight of life in Niger and was comforted by the line, “The Saviour king who had no home has come to heal our sorrow”. In Advent we remember Christ’s birth and look toward His return. In the midst of the hard parts of life in Niger, I try to comfort myself with passages like Rev. 21:4, “’He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”. That one day Jesus will return and remove us from the sorrow, is a beautiful promise, but sometimes it just seems too far away. What I was needing was the comforting truth that Christ was born Immanuel, God with us – not only in the past and in the future, but right here and now too. How incredible it is that Jesus was willing to leave the comforts and glories of heaven to be born into our mess, and to heal our hurts and our sorrows!
But as much as I need this truth, do I make room for it? We are so good at keeping a polished exterior, putting on a bright face, and counting our blessings to distract us from our hurts. Just because our lives may look pretty good compared to those of others around us, doesn’t make them pain free. In the midst of hurting with a friend, I was reminded of a very important truth: our hurts, as real as they are, are not the object of God’s story. They are allowed in because of His unfathomably deep love, but that same love has brought Jesus to earth to bear our burdens with us through to the day that our hurts would be redeemed by His return. Can I come as I am and trust God to write the end of His story?
“Is there room in your heart for God to write his story? You can come as you are. It may set you apart when you make room in your heart, and trade your dreams for His glory.”
Truth be told, the idea of trading my dreams for His glory is both liberating and terrifying. For many years my motto for my spiritual life has been “By His power for His glory”, but I admit that all too often I ask Him to empower my own ideas and offer Him any fame that might result. I ask God to use my dreams for His glory, rather than trading my dreams for His own. While I believe that in the big picture His dreams for me and for the whole of history are way bigger and better than I could “ever ask or imagine”, they sure don’t always look that way from the beginning!
- Noah was told to build an ark.
- Abraham was asked to get up and move, but wasn’t told where.
- Moses, terrified of speaking was told more than once to be his people’s representative both before Pharaoh and before God.
- The prophets? They were told:
Go to this people who hates you.
Proclaim destruction to that people.
Marry a promiscuous woman and name your kids Not Loved and Not My People.
- Mary and Joseph were asked to bear the taunts and questions about a seemingly illegitimate pregnancy. And Mary was asked to be mother to the only perfect son. No pressure Mary!
In the face of such opportunities, I’m sorely tempted to say, “No thanks. I’m okay with dreaming small and safe, thank you”. And so I try to write my own story.
But I am won over by the words in the second verse, spoken to the shepherds, “you are precious in His sight. God has come to raise the lowly”. God does not just pounce on people and demand they do hard things just because He says so. No, “we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). There are many examples in Scripture of how God uses surprising people as key characters in His overall story. Where would we be now without Rahab the prostitute, Ruth the foreigner, and Mary the virgin mother? When I feel too small to be of any significance God whispers to me, “You are precious in My sight. I have not forgotten you”. And so, I choose to cling tight to the one who knows me so thoroughly that He would choose me to be a part of His story. Through the challenges life brings, I, like Mary, hold the promise tight: every wrong will be made right. The road is straight, the burden's light, and in His hands he holds tomorrow. I choose not only to make room in my heart for God, but also to enter into the room in His story that He has made for me.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing” (Zeph. 3:17). The Lord our God is in our midst. Let us welcome Him in anew this Christmas.