About fifteen years ago, a music teacher friend and I attended a state level vocal competition in a small Florida town. She was the state treasurer, the one who handed out checks to judges and scholarship winners. I was the accompanist for two of the entrants. When we tried to make our reservations, the one hotel in town, an old Southern relic complete with ceiling fans and rockers on a wood-planked front porch, was booked solid and had been for months. Our only choice was the motel up by the interstate. We did not expect much, given the name on the sign and the price, so we weren’t surprised when we quickly stopped by to deposit our bags and saw the size of the room in the gloom. We had no time to inspect the premises or even turn on a light or open the shades. We just dumped our bags and drove on to the competition.
When we returned about ten o’clock that night, we almost left our things and fled, but there was no place to run to. The parking lot had been empty at 5 pm, but now it was full of souped-up, high rise, four wheel drive pickups, their fenders caked with streaks of mud and their windows with dust. Evidently their owners also found their rooms cramped, because it seemed like all of them were standing outside, laughing uproariously at one another’s jokes and adding to their flannel-clad beer bellies by the six pack, several of which they tossed around.
We actually had to pull in between two of those trucks, and all talking ceased as we left our car. I have never been so thrilled with my regular accompanist’s attire—a plain, black, mid-calf dress with a high neck and long sleeves. My friend wore a dressy business suit, and we were both on the wrong side of forty, so they let us pass without a word. When we got inside, we locked the door, put a chair under the knob, and pinned those still closed draperies overlapped and shut.
Then we saw our room in the light for the first time. You could barely get between the outside edge of each bed and its neighboring wall. The rod for our hanging clothes was loose on one end, and couldn’t support the weight of even my one dress, much less it and her suit. The soap was half the size of the usual motel sliver, and the bath towels more like hand towels. The pipes rattled, the tub sported a rust streak the color and width of a lock of Lucy’s hair, and the carpet had so many stains it looked like a planned pattern.
After we managed to shower in the tepid, anemic stream of water, we pulled down the sheets and my friend moaned, “Oh no.” With some trepidation I approached her bed in my nightgown and heels—neither of us wanted to go barefoot and they were all I had—and there lying on her pillow was a long black hair. Her hair was short and very blond, she being a Minnesotan by birth with a strong streak of Norse in her veins. “Please tell me the maid lost this hair when she was putting on clean—very clean—sheets.”
“Okay,” I muttered. “The maid lost that hair when she was putting on clean—ultra clean and highly bleached—sheets.”
When we got to bed, it wasn’t to sleep. Not with the noise going on in the parking lot just outside our door or in the neighboring rooms. The walls seemed as thin as tent walls. We rose in the morning bleary-eyed and ready to leave as quickly as possible. This place offered no “free breakfast” and we would not have eaten it if it had. We promised one another that if we ever had to come back and couldn’t get a room in town, we would stay anywhere else, even if it meant a fifty mile drive, one way.
It was a horrible experience, but some of us offer one just like it to the Lord.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, Eph 3:14-17.
According to Paul, it takes effort to allow Christ to dwell in our hearts, enough that he prayed for them to have the strength to allow it. Are you allowing it? And if you are, what sort of accommodations are you offering him?
Making a welcoming environment for him may not happen overnight, especially if we are dealing with deep-seated habits or even addictions of one sort or another. He understands that, but we must constantly be adjusting our behavior to suit him, not ourselves, putting his desires ahead of our own, becoming, in fact, a completely different person altogether. Wherefore if any man is in Christ, [he is] a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new, 2 Cor 5:17.
But this isn’t just a problem for new Christians. I have seen older Christians act as if Christ is nowhere nearby, much less dwelling in their hearts. Their language, their fits of pique, their dress, their choice of entertainment, and the complete lack of spiritual nourishment they partake of starved him and ran him off a long time ago, and they don’t even seem to realize it. What? Do you really think he will stay in a flophouse instead of the four star hotel you should have offered him?
What it all boils down to is a failure to live like we have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Gal 2:20. Did you see that? Allowing him to dwell in you (Eph 3:17) and living a new crucified life both happen “by faith.” Even if you have been claiming to be a Christian for decades, if you are not living up to it, you do not have the faith required. It doesn’t matter how many times you were dipped into a baptistery if nothing about you changed, or if you have gone back to that old way of life.
What sort of room are you offering the Lord? He spent a lot for it, and he will walk out if you don’t live up to the name on your sign—Christian.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 2 Cor 13:5.