Befriending the Void
Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it… Not to exercise all the power at one’s disposal is to endure the void. This is contrary to all the laws of nature. Grace alone can do it. Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it and it is grace itself which makes this void.–-Simone Weil
The Dark Night.
They seem to be holy landscapes for the biblical God for He spent much time there with His people throughout history. The Spirit of God led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested right after the Father declared His belovedness at His baptism. Reading passages like this one unnerve my human thirst for comfort and control.
As I enter the dry land and still have strength, it is easier to welcome the void. However, time in the wilderness takes its toll on me and on my vision of reality. And embracing the void can sometimes feel like I am hugging a prickly beast desiring to swallow me whole.
Today, I needed the nourishment of the truth that grace fills empty spaces…and it is grace itself which makes this void.
Grace sometimes feels like the uninvited guest. It has taken years of wanderings and waitings to taste and see the pricelessness of the fruit grown in the wilderness. I walked with Jesus many years before I was able to see that it was out of love for me that He led me into those lifeless seasons. My younger self believed that if I was in the wilderness, I had done something wrong and I was being punished. It was not love that led me there, but judgment. My younger self also believed that, as result, Jesus was not there with me.
As I’ve grown to know the biblical God, amidst all of the mystery surrounding His character, I have slowly discovered that it is Love that leads me into the dry land. And it is Love that is my constant companion in the dry land. And…sometimes love doesn’t feel comforting. It takes discomfort for our false self to be dislodged.
To love truth means to endure the void and, as a result to accept death. Truth is on the side of death.—Weil
In long, discomforting seasons, our flesh begins to crave comforting things to fill the void. But it is in the waiting alongside the void that the people or things we have sought to fill the void are sloughed out of our souls—the false self is slowly laid to rest. Perhaps this is something of what Jesus meant when He said you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
..Waiting does provide the time and space necessary for grace to happen. Spirit needs a container to pour itself into. Grace needs an arena in which to incarnate. Waiting can be such a place, if we allow it. —Sue Monk Kidd
As time lingers on in this current dry land pilgrimage in which my soul feels so hungry and thirsty—the barrenness is affecting my mind and my body. I’m beginning to thrash with God, wonder about His ways, and call His character into question. I’m channeling some Job right now and I’m glad and mad that He gave us that story. At the same time, I muster what little energy remains to keep facing off with the Accuser and believe God is a good and beautiful God who is for me and not against me.
I find myself needing to be reminded about why it is good for me to be here. Looking back, I see that the wilderness void was the place in which space was created in my soul for the root system of God’s love to expand and grow deeper into my soul. The richest fruit I have to offer others was seeded in the wilderness. I’m beginning to see that the befriending of the void is one of the paths to “being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
St. John of the Cross, my guide through the dark night, penned this poem in one of his. Perhaps it will nourish you whether your in lush fields or the barren wilderness.
Flame, alive, compelling,
Yet tender past all telling,
Reaching the secret centre of my soul
Since now evasion’s over,
Finish your work, my Lover,
Break the last thread, wound me and make me whole!
Burn that is for my healing!
Wound of delight past feeling!
Ah, gentle hand whose touch is a caress,
Foretaste of heaven conveying
And every debt repaying:
Slaying, you give me life for death’s distress.
O lamps of fire bright-burning
With splendid brilliance, turning
Deep caverns of my soul to pools of light!
Once shadowed, dim, unknowing,
Now their strange new-found glowing
Gives warmth and radiance for my Love’s delight.
Ah! Gentle and so loving
You wake within me, proving
That you are there in secret and alone;
Your fragrant breathing stills me,
Your grace, your glory fills me
So tenderly your love becomes my own.