Saturday, December 20, 2014

Loneliness and Christian Emptiness

Earlier this week, I came across this quote which speaks volumes to me:

God looked over the world for an empty heart -- but not a lonely heart -- a heart that was empty like a flute on which He might pipe a tune -- not lonely like an empty abyss, which is filled by death. And the emptiest heart He could find was the heart of a Lady. Since there was no self there, He filled it with His very Self.
~ Fulton Sheen, The World's First Love: Mary Mother of God
In a manner of speaking, one of God's goals for us is for us to become empty. This emptiness, of course, has to be understood, as Sheen's sense has it, in the Carmelite way. Empty means ready. Empty implies availability, and it implies purpose and community. One is available for something, or rather for Someone.

It speaks, of course, to the scene of Joseph and Mary journeying to Bethlehem, looking for available space where Jesus might be born. Is my house, am I, available? Not much is made of this in Scripture, but much has been made of it in meditations such as the custom of Las Posadas

The enemy of this kind of emptiness is loneliness. When I read this, the naru hodo alarm rang within me as my personal history instantly shot up multiple instances of proof of this. Oh my goodness how my nature has recoiled from self-emptying for fear of loneliness, of that sense of being left out of the life-stream that certainly everyone else was deeply enjoying. The voices that speak contrary to truth: the world, the flesh and the devil, scream that I must have things, people, experiences that fill me, things I can possess, things I must hold on to to stay afloat. For certainly life revolves around something I don't have but need, or something I don't have enough of, or something I might lose, or something someone else controls and I have to posture myself in order to receive. Certainly without having, I am nothing.


Um, no.

In the midst of frantic craving I lose sight of reality. Reality is that the God of the universe, the Blessed Trinity, created me for a purpose. My purpose is to love and worship God in a holy communion of persons. I worship God as I lay down my life, as I empty myself and empty from myself all lesser pursuits.

I do this not because I am a masochist and don't believe in or want good things for myself. It is not Christian to understand "empty" in the sense of "denude." I do this out of great faith in the One who reciprocates my emptiness with Himself. The availability we offer to God is always for communion. God's ultimate goal for us is union with Him, not for us to become simply a great void. As I relinquish my obsessive self-factor I see that God loves, gives, and is deeply merciful in response to enter into human misery and to be, literally, God-with-us.

To break it down and make it real simple: faith in Jesus calls me to abandon everything to Him in love. I long to be empty, I agree to be emptied, I move towards emptiness because I know, love, and trust in the One who fills. And that infilling is what every smidgeon of my being longs for.

Oh yeah, there might be long, painful gaps where there are no blissful feelings. Stuff of earth feels useless and the bliss of heaven is nowhere. You experience loss, dependencies will be broken, and temporal security will be shaken.

But I believe and trust in the promise -- no, in the One who made the promise. He is faithful. He is true. I love Him; He calls me. To wait for such a One in emptiness is not the death-filled abyss of loneliness. It is the strengthening and deepening of love. It is worth giving your life for. In fact, it is the only thing worth giving your life for.

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