As I looked back over my markings and highlights in Dallas Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart, I found a short passage that I had underlined and it stood out to me once again. Willard envisions the soul of a person like a membrane, something like a skin, that lets some things through and keeps others out. Human skin lets heat and cold affect the rest of the body as it contacts nerve endings. Also salves and ointments can help moisturize or deaden painful areas simply by being applied to the skin. But for all that skin will allow through it, there is a great deal of protection that our epidermal layer offers. It acts as a barrier for the safety of what is behind, or underneath, it. This is in itself a fascinating analogy but Willard brings application to it as he says,
“When that wall is broken, individuals are at the mercy of forces they cannot handle. The soul can be sustained intact and can function as it is supposed to only in the keeping of God.”
The “rules” change when we are cut or our skin is otherwise laid open. I’ve read that the percentage of post-examination infections plummeted about a century and a half ago from one small change in the doctors’ and nurses’ prep routine, washing their hands. A doctor in a Vienna hospital, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss found that many doctors were leaving autopsies and walking directly into maternal wards and exam rooms without “washing the dead” off of themselves.
To a great degree I have no control over the infectious nature of the world I live in. I cannot cure every ill and I don’t have the time or foresight to avoid every danger. So it is of utmost importance that I am continually running diagnostic checks of the defense system that I have been given by God. Where I have cuts I must disinfect and protect. I would be a fool to believe that I am immune to the things that have brought so many others down.
I suppose a question that also must be asked of me is how and how often am I letting my skin be broken? Am I, in my life of entertainment, relationships, and thoughts, attempting to walk through a field of razor blades? I tend to believe that most of our spiritual cuts are self-inflicted, though obviously not all. Perhaps our caution in what we allow to enter our eyes, ears, and mind is not necessarily about that thing itself. If I listen to a presentation by a charismatic and articulate speaker who is diametrically opposed to everything that I believe I may very well be able to withstand his or her sway and emerge without having crossed over in my thinking. However, the problem may not be an immediate one. It very well could be that I have incurred a wound in my tug of war with another ideology and I am now susceptable to other influences that I would have formerly been guarded against. This could be easily to the applied to the heretical nonsense of health and wealth theology. I may be able to listen, read, and discuss with that line of thinking, but the next time I or my child are sick will I find that I am more vulnerable to that infectious ridiculousness?
(as a caveat I will say that we must hear, read, and know other opinions, it is healthy…but when we study and struggle with them we must be diligent in checking ourselves for wounds in hidden, or weak, places – this is done by shoring up our own beliefs, returning to the Scriptures to hear the truth and let it cover and heal our wounds)
I pray that we would be wise as we navigate this sharp and treacherous world; infection is far too disastrous in our souls to be taken lightly.