“Well, we all know that you’re a little sensitive,” a family member said to me one day.
She may not have meant it that way, but that word stung.
Sensitive. It implies someone who’s out of control of their reactions, someone who overreacts in a childish, self-centered way. And sure, I can be that way sometimes. But God, in His kindness, has helped me see how being sensitive is a potential superpower.
I remember dragging myself through the chapters in Exodus where God instructs the Israelites to build the tabernacle. His attention to detail — from material choice, to whom could walk where, wearing what, and when, to the ding-dang measurements (by CUBIT, y’all?!) — I couldn’t stifle the yawns!
But God woke me up: You, Aarti, are also my temple. If I was this exacting about a temporary temple in the wilderness, how much more exacting was I in making you, a walking tabernacle of the Holy Spirit? And if I made rules about who could cross from threshold to threshold, perhaps you ought to use your sensitivity to consider what you’re letting walk willy-nilly across yours.
Oh, that’s a good point, God, I thought. (At which point, I imagined Him smiling and saying something like, Would you expect anything less from Me?! And then I’d smile and give Him a spirit high-five because I love when He’s sarcastic.)
Memories flooded my mind: Red flags I’d ignored in some friendships; New Age books I’d read because everyone else did, even though they made me uneasy; or that time I’d sensed something awry at my church but couldn’t put my finger on it (I’ve since learned what that was about, and yup, I was onto something).
Why do we need to be so careful about what crosses our threshold?
This line struck me as I read 2 Kings the other day. It’s listed as a reason that Israel fell from God’s grace:
And they followed false idols and became false.
2 Kings 17:15 (ESV)
Or, as one commentator puts it, “And they worshipped emptiness and became empty.”
What started off as an allowance for and then a curiosity about Canaanite worship and celebration (when King Solomon allowed his many foreign wives to bring their idols into the kingdom) turned into the Israelites building temples to those very idols and forgetting Yahweh altogether.
Similarly, I’ve invited the seemingly benign across my threshold without giving them a once-over, only to find them eventually running roughshod over me. The Real Housewives pantheon comes to mind. It started with Atlanta, then New Jersey, and soon I was watching hours every night. My obsession grew like a weed, guiding my reactions, even the way I treated my loved ones. One day, whilst fasting, I turned on an episode, and call me crazy, but I saw a cloud of malevolence hurtling toward me from the screen. It looked like a grey murmuration of tiny flies.
I decided to stop cold turkey.
Listen, we should be cautious not to be legalistic or judge-y about how others feed their minds, but we certainly do need to take an accounting of our own consumption. I still watch the Housewives on occasion but with my spirit-eyes wide open. When I allow shows, an influential friendship, makeup videos, cooking, even something like the Enneagram into my temple, I must do so in an exacting fashion because I’m fallible! I can easily become enslaved to it and put it on a pedestal, which looks an awful lot like worship, right?
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”— but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
Every single thing on this side of heaven has the potential to either pull us away from Christ or make us run toward Him. Paul called our bodies temples, not libraries or hospitals or laboratories. He chose a holy building, somewhere God Himself descended to dwell. Now, in Christ, we are holy ground!
So yes, I am sensitive. I’m working on seeing that being sensitive can lead to discernment, like a canary in the coal mine. The Holy Spirit helps me examine anything that steps onto my doormat, twirl it around, and look at it from every angle, capturing its potential for sanctification and distraction before that thing rubs the dust off its feet and steps inside.
Over the years, the Lord has strengthened my sensitivity to the tug of the Holy Spirit, not just to turn from emptiness but to run towards abundance and pour it out into what’s empty. Oh what a tremendous gift to fill the darkness with His light! We carry precious cargo, and we’ve been assigned a precious duty, my friends. Let’s not squander our time here by letting emptiness into our temples. Emptiness takes space, and we can be filled with emptiness. Let’s use that God-given discernment to keep our temples full of His truth, so that when the tired, weary, and lost draw near to us, we can invite them in, prepare them a feast, and introduce them to the One who is the source of every good and beautiful thing.
For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
2 Corinthians 6:16 (ESV)