empty: an update

Be careful what you ask for.

In January I chose one word to give shape to my year. Innocently. Naively. Not suspecting the can of worms I was opening. If I had only known…

empty

This I said I wanted.

This I asked for.

And it has been delivered.

In spades.

It doesn’t look like I thought it would.

Here is what I said I wanted….

To stand silent and empty before God. Without demand, without pretense, without excuse, without words. To be still. To be with. It is harder than it should be. For me. But I am learning. A little.

To empty myself of arrogance and self-sufficiency. To walk humbly with others. Most especially with my family. And close friends.

To empty my life of clutter. Frivolous pursuits (ie: the black hole of the internet, mostly), Items I no longer use (which could benefit another, and occupy space in my home), Things I might like to buy (or that might be a really good deal) but I don’t need, etc…

To stand silent and empty before God.

In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron speaks of the serendipity that aggregates around us once we step into a given path. Each of the two groups of women I gather with on a weekly basis have gravitated at some point this year, without my intervention (mostly), toward a book that cultivates stillness.

At the inaugural Luminous conference this spring, I exulted in the teaching of Ian Cron, and the experiences of silence that he led us through. It is a rare gift to be able to lead others into silence. To create a safe place for surrender. To go there together, yet alone. It was a gift of deep refreshment.

Finally, guess what the theme of our upcoming women’s retreat is? Living Prayer!! On becoming prayer. Being silent and still before God. Wow!

To empty my life of clutter.

Yes, I realize I am going out of order. There is method in this.

When I dream of silence, stillness, emptiness, this is mostly what I see. And though I am willing to surrender some of the clutter I initiate in my life, I also want others to refrain from cluttering my life. I MOSTLY want others to refrain from cluttering my life. It’s not noble or attractive, but true.

I am discovering that I am extraordinarily selfish.

Imagine my delight. :/

Which brings me to number two…

To empty myself of arrogance and self-sufficiency.

(To walk humbly with others. Most especially my family.)

Herein lies the rub.

I had imagined my life looking different at this point in my life. Children mostly grown. Lots of time to pursue interests I tabled while raising my wee ones. These interests, these activities, would give me identity. Would tell me who I am.

Instead, I am starting all over again.. I care for my granddaughter at least four days each week. Sometimes more. All this while getting one son ready to move away to college and hauling my other teenage son to voice lessons, theater rehearsals, tutorial classes. Oh, and did I mention, he is homeschooling again this year? Somewhere in the midst of that I scrub toilets, pull weeds, cook meals, and wash laundry (which will be dirty again this time next week). Sometimes it seems so futile. So temporary.

And I wonder…

Who Am I??????!!!!!!

All these jobs. With no salary. No dignity. Do these define me?

God has allowed me to know an emptiness I never asked for.

Well……maybe I did.

In my naivete I asked for something I need, but do not want. And I am struggling with the “gift” of emptiness visited upon me.

What if I never do anything remarkable? What if I never write a book? What if, when I die, only my closest friends know my name? Is this a life worth living? These are the questions I find myself asking just now.

They are worthy questions, I believe. And answers are coming from the most unexpected quarters.

I had coffee recently with one of my favorite people. A  young woman who is a nanny. A woman who is changing the world one encouraging word at a time. Her words are truly life. To me, and to scores of others. She is struggling with the knowledge that God called her to ministry when she was very young. And what she is doing is clearly not “ministry”. She is a nanny. But I look at her words. At the life they carry. And I tell her that she could not be more wrong. She is not famous. She is not employed by a church. But every day she is speaking life. What better ministry is there than that?

I asked her, “What if, at the end of your life, you had never worked for a church…you had never written a worship song that was on everyone’s lips…but every person who encountered you walked away different for having spent time with you? Would that be enough?”

On the drive home, I heard a question in my own mind.

“Is it enough?”

If you do not shatter and empty your ego, how will you make room for God? ~Mother Gavrilia

The emptying continues…..