We are always trying to live full lives. Everyone is fighting to fill their wallet, to fill their stomachs, to fill their homes. Everyone I know tries to fill their time with as much as they possibly can, racing from one activity to another, making sure to squeeze in as many episodes of their favorite TV show, or spend just one more hour at work. Many people like to fill their life with experiences or new adventures. Everyone wants everything to be full. FULL. FULL.
I must admit that I am constantly pursuing a state of fullness as well. I want to have a full relationship, filled with adventures and excitement. I want to be full of feelings, until they are gushing out from my lips because I can’t possibly hold them in. I want to have access to whatever I need to fully fill myself. So I fill my days with work so I can buy new toys, I fill my time off with social media so I can feel loved. I fill my quiet moments with news so I can be well informed. I fill my stomach with food so I can feel safe from famine.
I’m always trying to fill myself up.
There is a concept in art known as negative space. Negative space is space that is not filled by the subject of the art, but is essentially the nothing that something exists in. Good graphic design demands that you pay attention to the negative space. If your artwork is full of stuff, then the whole purpose of your creation can be lost in the extra fluff surrounding it. Your work goes from something like the Mona Lisa to a “Where’s Waldo”. Creating something without negative space makes it hard to really appreciate the beauty of what you are creating. It makes it hard for others to appreciate what you are creating as well.
One day I was shown the quarry down the road from where I work, and ever since then I keep going back to it. A quarry doesn’t sound that interesting, it is a place where people dig up rocks and sand. Instead of filling up, a quarry is a place where people work to empty something. As the quarry is dug deeper, more and more of the quarry is removed, but at the same time, more and more of the quarry is revealed. I’ve not yet been to the Grand Canyon, but I know that you don’t go there to see the things that fill it up, but rather how empty it is. Yes, there are boundaries, but without those boundaries you couldn’t know how empty it is, and you couldn’t be moved by how incredibly large it is. When something is emptied out, a beauty that can not be taken away remains.
God is a master of using negative space. He created the sky, something inconceivably large, but something that seems so incredibly empty. Or at least it seems empty as we run about trying to fill our lives with something. It isn’t until you stop to appreciate how empty the night sky is, that you start to see the beauty it contains. It isn’t until you turn off the lights, and slow down that you can see the stars poking through the inky blackness you’re surrounded by. We couldn’t see the beauty of the stars if they were jammed in tightly next to each other. It is in the negative space of the sky, that those little pinpricks of light can shine out from and make us feel so small.
I’m hoping to start accepting that emptiness isn’t the curse we’ve made it out to be. It is, after all, a still small voice that speaks after the wind, after the earthquake, after the fire, that is the only voice that can truly fill us. After Elijah had confronted the prophets of Bail, after he had won the Superbowl of spiritual confrontations, he had to go somewhere to be emptied out. He couldn’t handle being full. He needed a rest, so he hid himself away from the world, and it is in those moments that God spoke to him. He found peace in those moments. He found himself in those moments.
So maybe it is time for you to stop trying so hard to be full, and to instead allow yourself to be empty.
Make room for something bigger.
Make room for the breath of God to fill you.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
To be hungry, you must be empty.