Friday, November 23, 2007

Empty and Full

Well, there's a lot of fullness with Thanksgiving, if you are blessed so wonderfully as we were. In spite of a nearby water main breaking and leaving us with murky, unusable water during the morning, and in spite of losing the sweet potato cassarole (My fault! I "helped" by making room on the kitchen counter by setting the dish on top of the washing machine, and the vibrations of the spin cycle slid it right off on the floor, and everywhere.), we had more than enough of excellent food to fill us up, twice. We had a great time together.

Plus, I was reminded that you have to be emptied before you can be filled - and it wasn't the full plate of food that reminded me. Sometime after dinner Cynthia and I sat down to talk about the Christmas gifts we would be getting for others this year. She wanted to know what to watch for before heading out into the hunt on Black Friday. I was preoccupied with a program I was watching. I shared a couple of ideas, and then she did. But honestly, I didn't hear a word she said. My mind was full and her words bounced off my eardrums.

I didn't tell her (30 years of marriage have taught me something) right away. But later, after some mind/attention emptying, I chanced to ask her to repeat her suggestions, and got away with it! Great Thanksgiving.

Henry Nouwen once compared being pre-occupied to inviting a guest to take a seat in a room where all the seats are filled. There has to be some emptying first. I wonder if God often feels like such a guest when in my prayers I invite him into my life. God's welcome, but I've made no room for him. No wonder it feels that God is distant when our lives are so "full."

"A time to empty and a time to fill" is not the same as "a time to fill and fill some more." How in the world to we confuse the two? So full of stuff, of ourselves, and of our own ideas, we leave no place open where God can do new things. And then we wonder what's wrong when God allows circumstances to begin "emptying" our lives. And think of this: How many times do we go to church wanting God to fill us, when what we really need is for God to empty us? Do we expect times of emptying as well as times of filling?

I guess that was the reason the season of Advent began - a time of emptying like Lent, so we could receive the gift of Christ. Good thing it comes after a full Thanksgiving, or else I wouldn't have room for it.

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