Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Fullness of Emptiness

The Apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters that the Christ emptied Himself of His divinity to become a human being named Jesus and to live among other humans on earth. We talk of glasses being half empty or half full when describing how we view the situations in which we find ourselves. Those who are widowed speak of a profound loneliness felt even while in the midst of a crowd of friends and relatives. And ministers and other writers struggle with those vast, blank pages or screens when deadlines are looming and the words simply will not come.

I have become familiar with all but the first of these examples of emptiness. I have experienced it more in the last six months than I ever have even imagined before. There have been far too many days that were full of chores to be done, but no energy, interest or drive emerged to get them completed. In some cases, no energy, interest or drive emerged even to get them started! I have spent far too long in the land of “why bother and what’s the point”. I have been choosing to live in the past, dredging up memories - - good ones and not so good ones - - in part to smile, but often to feel pain. Feeling pain is an indication that I still have the capacity for feeling; that I did not die with John back in July. I have thought of the future as a nightmare I have yet to dream.

I have been looking at my life as I would a piece of paper that has been crumpled into a ball and discarded, only to be retrieved and pressed back out; with worn places where words have been written and erased, no longer fresh, clean and crisp; but soft, worn in some places, torn in others and generally wrinkled. And few words remain. All of the terms that previously identified my life are faded, with some eradicated completely. The page is empty, devoid of what it once held. I’ve been mourning for this almost as much as I have been grieving the loss of my husband. I wonder who I am now, and who I am to be. There is a drained, cavernous feeling within my soul.

And yet, I realize that this very abyss is spacious enough for such potential! As I have crossed the meridian into middle age, retirement and widowhood, the bonds that previously described my life have loosened. This life, this canvas, much like a priceless painting that had been covered over then subsequently restored, may well yet hold a masterpiece that the Artist painted years before my birth. As I struggled in my early life, I awkwardly and pitifully painted over God’s purpose even as I searched for it, placing there instead a youthful and inexperienced representation of what my life could be. In places, I think I stumbled onto pieces of my destiny. But as a student tries to learn a skill without consulting a trained professional or at least without sufficient practice, my attempts at life have been ill informed and would have benefitted greatly from some additional instruction and apprenticeship. I hope to not make the same mistakes again.

As I raise the burning candle of my faith and peer into the darkness of the future, my hand trembles, sending the melting wax dripping down on my fingers, but I am not burned by regrets or guilt. It is not a tremor based in fear, but one of awe. It is the excitement of knowing that in a real sense, I can start over from here, knowing what I know and having lived what I lived! Yes, I have already lived longer than I likely have ahead of me, so those worn places are apt to permanently absorb the ink with which the rest of my life will be written, so I need to get it right. I have a limited amount of time - - the exact duration known only to God - - to live the life He planned for me. Where I go from here, and what I am able to accomplish is taking on a higher sense of urgency.

I have written previously about feeling as if my little boat were stranded on some boulders in the middle of the river. I think I am experiencing a shifting of its position, and I am tentatively picking up the oars again to see if they will reach the water this time. I am emptying the boat of that which once threatened to swamp it, and with much hope, it is time to rejoin the current moving downstream.

May the Peace of Christ - - the One who experienced the most profound emptiness in order to live with us - - be with you!