In our culture “empty” is almost always a negative state of being. Empty is how we describe a car which has run out gas, or a life which has been rendered hollow through meaningless pursuits. Emptiness is what we feel when we look into the abyss and wonder, “Is this really all there is to my life?”
Christianity, when practiced well, doesn’t fear emptiness. In fact, it seeks emptiness as a death to self 1. It’s important to note that this emptiness isn’t a loss of self, or a transcendence from the material world into a “more pure” realm. In Christian spirituality, to be dead to one’s self means to be even more firmly grounded in God’s good Creation, fully opening our eyes to the wonders we’ve missed as we strove for our own desires. It is a reference to dying to our sinful nature, so that we might be filled with the sustenance of the very God of Creation.
When we feel “empty,” instead of yielding to despair, perhaps we should refocus our life-lens to ask, “With what am I preparing to be filled?” This is by no means a trivial shift, and sometimes it may even hurt worse than despair, but at the end of this pursuit is wholeness, as we are willed with the love of God.
- This is called kenosis or, “emptying,” in classic Christian spirituality. ↩