Emptiness. That’s a bad thing, right?
We are all seeking to be filled. We’re not exactly sure with what. We think money, love, a meaningful career, a family, or some combination of these things should do the trick.
But we don’t stop to think about it much. We just know that we don’t want to be empty. Ever. For even two seconds.
It’s as if we are bargain shoppers running up and down the aisles of life, filling our arms with as much as we can carry. We grab things off the shelves with reckless abandon. We take so much that we can hardly carry it. We don’t even know if we want or need it. We just want it, just in case it might fill us up.
What would happen if we allowed our hands to be empty?
Sometimes the true blessings of life come at you when you aren’t expecting them, when you aren’t even looking for them. They might come in an unexpected conversation with a child. Or a new friendship with someone you wouldn’t have expected. Or a sudden, breathtaking encounter with nature.
What if your hands are full when these unexpected blessings come at you? How will you receive the blessings if your hands are full of other things?
In Isaiah 40, the prophet tells us to be prepare ourselves for the Lord. “Make straight in the desert…a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all the people shall see it together.” Later, John the Baptist quoted this verse when he prepared to baptize Jesus, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Messianic prediction.
John was talking about the human heart, instructing the people on how to be ready for the Lord to appear. And later events in the story of Jesus’ life and ministry showed that many people followed this advice, that they were ready, that they were open to the leading of the divine. But many others were not. They were unable to see God’s work in their lives. Because their hands were full of other things and they had no place within them for his Spirit. Like the Town of Bethlehem, which had no place for the Baby Jesus in the inn, the hearts of the religious authorities were too full of other concerns to make room for the Lord.
It is not an easy thing to empty ourselves. We have to let go of old habits, old ways of thinking, sometimes old relationships that hold us back from growing. Being empty is difficult and frightening.
Yet it is necessary work if we want to make space for the true, eternal, lasting blessings of God’s life in our hearts.
Allow yourself to be empty. Sit with that emptiness. Because within that emptiness is a wonderful openness to accept blessings that you could never have imagined.
Within that emptiness is freedom.