The Gift of Emptiness

Receiving Your Inheritance – Sunday after the Ascension (Easter 7) Year A

Acts 1:6-14

Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11

John 17:1-11

We have come into a place in the cycle of the lectionary that is difficult for me to write about.  The way that Jesus speaks to His disciples and to His Father on behalf of His disciples is so precious that at times it feels irreverent to try to “explain” it or “clarify” it.  So, last week, I gave myself a week off.  That week, I just took the time of contemplation of His Goodness that usually leads to something written, and instead I sat in the presence of the One who promised to send the Advocate, and, through the gifts of the Advocate, to enjoy the indwelling of the Father.  I just couldn’t write about it.

This week is hardly any easier, but I’m starting to feel lazy, so forgive me if I make little sense.  I’m about to talk about something I don’t quite understand yet, the mystery of His Presence, and the emptiness that stirs up in me.

I spent a lot of time yesterday talking with my spiritual director/friend about this.  I think I see the outline of what I’m experiencing now, but I don’t know that I can describe the interior workings yet.

Here’s the outline.

Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving His disciples gazing upwards like children watching an escaped balloon vanish into the blue.  By His ascension, he left in me a gaping chasm in which He dwells by means of the Holy Spirit. 

Now, as I enter into that chasm, I meet Him.  As I open myself to my thirst for Him, “as in a dry and dusty land where there is no water,” I discover Him present to me in all His Goodness and Mercy.  And I know joy, joy that truly becomes my strength.  I know my joy in Him, and I am suddenly and absolutely aware of His joy in me.

Here’s the kicker.

He’s still ascended, and I’m not.  The greater the joy I know in Him, the more I long to be with Him always, and the more I am daily, even moment-to-moment aware of the chasm that opens up when I acknowledge my need for His indwelling.

Somewhere I had gotten the idea that when I got to know Him better, and to know Him in Himself, that chasm would start to close up.  And, when He comes to reign in all His Glory, I suppose that’ll be true.  Either that, or having been shorn of my carnal self, I just won’t mind that I have that empty place that draws me to Him. 

But in the mean time, I will always have it, and it will always ache, and it will always serve to draw me back into Communion with Him.  In worship, especially communal worship, the deep joy that is present does somehow make the ache into a sweet one, but it doesn’t disappear.

I don’t get to be rid of it, because as much as I’d like to think otherwise, this emptiness is a gift.  It draws me to Him, it leaves space in me for Him, and, when I know its sweetness, I think I know something of the longing He has for you and me.

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