What is it that we possess that comes between us and the Spirit? That which we hold onto, which we cannot let go of, which can be hard to relinquish. It can be our own view of ourselves, which may well be skewed; maybe we are overly proud of our achievements, or maybe deep down we think we are worthless – and of neither judgement are we prepared to let go. It could be our opinions, our attitudes, our political views; convinced of the rightness of our underlying attitudes, or our convictions, we can be blinkered to other opinions. It doesn’t actually matter whether or not we are correct in our viewpoints; it is whether or not we are possessing them, holding on to them. Or maybe we hold onto our possessions. There’s nothing wrong with owning things as such; Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and follow him (see Mark 10), but I’m unaware of any evidence to suggest he told everybody this. We do need income, homes, furniture. But are these our possessions, or do they possess us? Or are we prepared to let go of all that, but actually hold onto our spiritual ‘possessions’? Our prayer, our work for God?
Do we own these things or do they own us? Can we see them as gifts from God, or are they ‘ours’? I suspect for most of us the answer is somewhere in between. Which is okay; our faith is a journey, not one we can get perfect from the start, but one we go deeper and deeper into. I remember I was praying about forgiveness once, years ago, the need to forgive others but how difficult that can be. I was sitting on the beach, looking out over the sea, when it came to me that God was like the sea. That sense of timelessness, the vastness of it. God is like that; we are not expected to do all this now and have it done and dusted. Our God knows that we are human, that these things take time to grow into. Forgiveness, especially, can be something we need to grow towards, to acknowledge and explore all those negative feelings that can come when someone has hurt or injured us. Reading through the Psalms, it is obvious God knows all about these feelings, and doesn’t expect us to hide them.
The same works for our possessive instinct. What is it that you possess that comes between you and the Spirit? You may be able to realise what it is that you are holding onto and let go; you may not, it may take time to realise, and even longer to let go. That’s okay. We are called to follow God, and as long as we are somewhere on that journey, God will know that and draw us further on and closer to. Like swimming in an ocean, there is never any end, but we have to start somewhere, and if all we can do is dip our toe in the water, and run out again – then at least we have begun.
But to let go of what we possess – in actuality, or just emotionally or spiritually – creates further room within us for the Spirit to come and dwell deeper and more closely. Jesus stands at the door and knocks: how far can you let him in?