God walked alone unhonoured through the earth;
For him no heart-built temple open stood.
The soul forgetful of her noble birth
Had hewn him lofty shrines of stone and wood,
And left unfinished and in ruins still
The only temple he delights to fill.
How many things have we built, anticipating that God would be pleased with what we were doing for him? Yet the poem reminds us that what God wants is not what we do, but us. Just like Jesus chose the twelve first to be with him, and only secondarily to go out and do his work (Mark 3:14).
We are so impressed with our actions. But in God's estimation, the human heart, his most intricate piece of workmanship, is vastly superior to the most magnificent cathedral constructed by men. Yet while enormous sums are spent on maintaining heritage buildings, hearts are allowed to rot and crumble.
Paul sensed the same divine priority. He prayed for the church that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:17). At first glance this seems a superfluous prayer: is a Christian not, by definition, somebody within whom Christ lives? Why pray for what is already in place? Yes - Christ inhabits every believing heart by his Spirit. But Paul's word is "dwell", not inhabit. And that has connotations of "living comfortably", feeling at home and being at ease. Yes, he lives in us. But then there are people who live in broken-down, ramshackle hovels. He deserves a comfortable resting place, not a dilapidated heart.
In his gracious way he is content to live in a home that is in the middle of a major renovation. He's happy with a work in progress. So long as there is progress! So long as we are genuinely in the process of being built into a Temple fit for God's own dwelling place.