Running On Empty
I came back to Washington after all. It was very seductive, sitting in silence on a lakeside porch with a good book in my lap, watching the loons. But life resumes, as does the (not even almost) Daily Cup.
Rev’d Jim’s sermon this Sunday, Forgiveness as Transformation, included “The Bridge,” a fable by noted family systems expert Edwin Friedman. I’m not going to recap here; Jim’s sermon is on St. Alban’s website. But I’m thinking more about what happens after we loosen our grip—“letting go” being one of the fable’s themes.
Here’s what I learned on my three-week peaceful respite, not
--Understanding what we need to let go of is a slow process.
--We may cling to weighty difficulties if we’re not sure what might replace them.
--Letting go can mean accepting, even welcoming, emptiness.
--God is in the empty places.
You probably know these things, but I’m a work in progress, I’m only 72.
Culturally, we like fullness. We value a fulsome lifestyle: pretty good resume, nice credit line, respectable number of good works to do, calendar of substantial social and educational activities. At some point though, doesn’t it feel like we are jamming three more things into an already bulging suitcase or making a mess trying to refill an already full bottle? Our multitasking leaves little space for listening to ourselves, much less to God.
A good friend recommended a book for my vacation, When Women Were Birds, by Terry Tempest Williams. It was a Wow for me. As the author’s mother neared death, she gave her daughter 54 journals, one for each year of the dying woman’s life. When opened later, each journal contained only blank paper. Thus began the author’s search for her mother’s voice in those empty pages, as well as for her own.
It took me three weeks of blank-page days to really hear my own voice, the authentic voice of a woman in relationship with God. Christian mystic Simone Weil said that “grace enters through empty spaces.” I thank God for that time and pray for ways to carve out more emptiness, and in the quiet, to hear more clearly God’s voice within and around my own.
I hope you had some empty times this summer, and perhaps we can all find more emptiness to truly know God-in-us in the days ahead.
From Prayers and Thanksgivings, the Book of Common Prayer:
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.