Today, I feel empty.
As I’ve become more unwell I’ve gone from having a fairly busy life to a very quiet one. There are lots of things I’d like to do to fill my time and my mind but my body simply won’t allow it. I used to enjoy my job, my friends and my ability to go out and do what I liked. All those things form a part of our identities. And when they are stripped away, I feel as if there is nothing left.
Emptiness is a feeling to which I’ve become accustomed. I often sit in my living room wondering what I’m meant to be doing. What is the point of all this? The BBC adaptation of ‘Wives and Daughters’ has one of my favourite quotes: “I try to say ‘God’s will be done’ but it’s harder to be resigned than happy people think.”
It’s ok to feel empty. It’s not pleasant. It’s not the way things should be. But it’s not necessarily sinful. The important thing is to remember and believe that you won’t stay empty. Our God is not a God of emptiness. He’s not a God of vacuums. He’s a God of cups that overflow and life lived to the full.
You may be looking toward this Christmas with a sadness or an emptiness. But know this: Jesus came down to earth, he emptied himself, he became nothing so that we don’t have to stay empty and so that we can be somebody. I don’t know when and I don’t know how but I can promise you that if you give God your emptiness He will fill you up in ways you’ve never dreamed. And if you give God your feeling of insignificance He will remind you that He loved you so much He sent His beloved Son so that you could bear the very name of Christ.
Emptiness is not the end. It may be part of our story but we have been given this emptiness so that when we are filled, we will know Love more deeply than ever before.
Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself,
taking the form of a bond-servant,
and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him,
and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:6-11 (NASB)
I sit on the train, staring out of the window at the countryside speeding past me. Trees, flowers, lakes, hills. So much beauty. So much creativity. I love the patterns that the combination of cloud and sun creates on the green grass in front of me. But only for a millisecond. It races past and I find myself seeing picture after picture, landscape after landscape. Some prettier than others, some more inspiring than others.
We stop at a station and I’m filled with interest at another part of life. People flood onto the train. Different people with different faces, minds, stories. I don’t know them, don’t know who they are, what they’re thinking. Except for the lady who’s just missed the train. I think I can guess her thoughts.
We start moving again and I delight in watching other people. I give them names and lives. I write stories for them. And yet I know that I can never capture them. They are as complicated as I. They have tastes, dreams, thoughts, whole lives that I can never imagine. The smallness of my mind, of my imaginings amazes me. I could sit here all day and ponder one person and I wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Some people are frustrated by how much humans still don’t know. I can see why but it doesn’t frustrate me. It excites me. I love learning. The thought of getting to the end of knowledge is a scary thing. A sad thing. That’s why I love that I serve a God who is unfathomable. I love the thought that we can spend forever learning more about him and never get to the end. If you think you’re clever, look at God. If you think you know a lot, look at God. It’s humbling and inspiring. Know your limits. Know your weakness. Know your potential. Know your God.
It’s 10.15am. I’m sitting in the lounge area of a local old people’s home waiting for the lady I’m visiting to finish dressing.
For a while, all is quiet, save for the ticking of an old grandfather clock in the corner of a room. And then all at once, several old ladies and gentlemen come in and I stand up. This, you see, is coffee time and one and all are eager for their mid morning beverage. They are various ages and in various degrees of ill health.
One tiny, well dressed lady catches my eye. At least, the flash of bright blue on her fingernails does. She smiles at me and apologises for the amount of time it’s taking her to walk past me. I smile back and on an impulse tell her that I love her brightly coloured nails. With a sweet smile, she leans her head close to mine and whispers to me.
‘I do it to shock, you know. Most people think it’s disgusting!’
She laughs a child’s giggle and continues on her way. I go back to my chair with a smile on my face, filled with a ridiculous happiness. Oh, the joys of blue nail varnish.