I often met my life’s challenges with a strategic battle plan. You know those great boards where the war generals gather around to plan their attack, to record the movements of the enemy and where they mark their troops progress. That’s what my mind looked like. Of course, I expected things wouldn’t always go the way I planned and that there would be casualties involved. But I also, hoped deeply and expected victories as well. So, I was unprepared for…. emptiness. A black abyss that appeared one day, right in the middle of my well laid battle plans. An enemy I could never have prepared myself for. It swallowed all my plans to get through the next days challenges. It turned small lights of hope into thick darkness. Emptiness… caused any plans I may have had for getting through today, to be lost…. in nothingness.
Have you ever battled for your life and knew that though you were in pain this would not be for nothing? You just knew this wouldn’t last forever you woke up every morning, and knew you’d get through the day and only that day. Then one day, something changed. The battle of that day seemed to strip away something. You weren’t the same somehow. I came out of the battle with loss, loss of something I didn’t understand. I woke the next morning, a part of me gone. The battle plan, well, it wasn’t even possible to plan anything. It was gone into that great abyss of emptiness.
The stripping away, has caused me to become empty and emptiness demands to be filled. A withdrawal of sorts occurs. My mind had nothing to do, but be still. In those unusual moments of stillness, panic filled my heart. I didn’t know what to focus on. I didn’t know what flight or fight would be around the next corner. (Not that I had any power over the future or control of what may come and go in my life.) This recent emptiness was not unlike right after I lost my husband to cancer. The depth of what I was experiencing was similar, but it was a different kind of death. Not of a person, but of something inside of me. This emptiness birthed hopelessness, loneliness, overwhelming weariness and vulnerability. I cried out, “What next?”
It was frightening and momentarily debilitated, the first thing that happened was… I recognized the sudden demand for the hole to be filled. I panicked. I began doing things I had never done before. The need for busyness kicked in. I couldn’t stop myself. I filled my day with a thousand tasks, from washing everything, yard work, shopping etc. I began choosing tasks that would physically exhaust me, on purpose. My body was screaming and my mind wielded a great whip, pushing me. I was both grasping to fill emptiness and… running from the pain of it. After several days of this, I was still empty.
This morning I recognized myself filling the emptiness in so many other ways… desperate for a reason to keep going, to be happy, to feel ok. I remembered the many thousands of times I’d heard over the years, Jesus is the only one who can fill the emptiness. I thought I believed it. But I realized, I questioned it when faced again with bitter emptiness. I wondered how a God of love, who came as a man to walk, in person, with His creation…. how could He take this emptiness or fill it. I was struggling. Jesus was not tangible in this moment of emptiness. I couldn’t see Him or feel Him. I couldn’t believe He saw me…. on this great planet of billions of people. How could one human, empty and sad matter? How could He fill a hole this big? The fruits of emptiness… hopelessness, weariness, loneliness and vulnerability…. seemed bigger than the fruits of the spirit…. love, joy, peace, patience, goodness and the like.
I was forced to stop. I was forced to be still…. I was physically spent. In bed, fatigued from battling feeling so alone. That’s when Jesus came. Tangible in every way. A phone call, a prayer, a letter…. Jesus hands and feet right there with me. And then… a flash of realization. A burden I had carried so long it had grown into my being and become… a part of me… had been removed. The emptiness was the removal of something that needed to be gone. Functioning suddenly as I was made to… frightened me. The familiar, even what isn’t good for you to carry, is still the familiar… comfortable in some strange way. I felt lighter but terribly unsure of myself, should I be ok with this or…. not. Similar to becoming a widow after months and hours of being a caregiver… but on an even more personal level.
I can say now, those undeniably scary moments of change, of emptiness, of transition…. Jesus fills in the gap. He doesn’t replace what’s missing…. no… He leaves the memory and the lesson. But He seeps into cracks and breaks…. and He absorbs into your very being. Around all the raw edges and jagged places of that hole, that gap, that emptiness is the very person of Jesus. Deep in the fibers and sinew and the marrow of the wound that left us empty is the life blood of Jesus touching us in ways that fulfill, protecting us from the pain we cause ourselves with worry, busyness and loneliness. Our seeking to fill…. what can only be fulfilled leads us to doubt and self preservation. And those lead us to be blind to all the many hundreds of ways He is right there with us.
It is my prayer, for my children and my family, that where they need me most… whether to be ok and to provide stability or just be the me He made me to be in their lives that God will step in and empower me to be present. But where I cannot and where I am still growing and unable to meet them… or where I should not and am not supposed fill… I ask God to send His Spirit and His Son to fulfill needs. Not just fill. For my dear friends and those whom I do not know who may read here…… I pray that in your emptiness, you’d see Jesus promises fulfilled. He never promised it would be easy, safe or a life free of pain… but he did promise you’d never be alone, that he would never leave us, that his love was near to the broken hearted, that He loved us so much He collected every tear and knew us so well He saw us as we unfolded into tiny humans in our mother’s womb.