Dare to live empty.
It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? It runs against the grain of our cultural fabric. We like full–we strive for it: full cupboards, full bank accounts, full schedules and full social calendars. We’re full of information and knowledge, of resources and tools. Full is good, right? Full means comfort and protection and insurance and sometimes power. Full indicates that we’re prepared. It suggests that we’re competent, ready for anything, geared to go.
But what if empty is better?
Sometimes we can get so full of ourselves, so weighted down with our own ideas and game plans that navigating life on God’s terms can feel like an uphill race. Sometimes in all our fullness we can find ourselves bloated. When we feast on trend or fill on consensus, we leave no room for God or for what matters most.
When I look at the way Jesus did life, I see Him empty of Himself and empty of this world—empty of it’s trappings and clutter. That emptiness precipitated the infilling of His father. Jesus said, I don’t say anything that I don’t first hear my Father speaking. I don’t do anything that I have not first seen my Father doing. Jesus lived surrendered and Jesus lived light: no home, no headquarters, no apps or clubs or communities—not even a backpack to carry a few essentials.
He filled himself with the Father and then emptied himself giving heaven’s bread away. Like the mana in the wilderness, Jesus filled daily and He emptied daily. When he was empty, He sought out a place of solitude with his Father to be filled again.
Of the various ways I seek to fill my life, the area of fullness that most weighs me down is being full of myself. When I am full of myself, there is little room for God—and frankly, it’s like junk food that fools me into thinking I’m not hungry. I am full of my own words, my own opinions, my own agenda, my own solutions, my own initiative, my own sufficiency—my own need to be approved of and affirmed by others. I’m full of ideas about how things ought to be. When I fill my head and my day and my agenda with the goods I think will carry me, I am actually just weighing myself down and crowding out what I need most.
The prophet Micah tells us what God requires. Among living justly and loving mercy, we are to walk humbly with our God. It takes a certain kind of emptiness to walk with God in humility. And it takes a certain type of humility to walk in emptiness.
It was an empty womb, an empty manger, and an empty ego that brought Christ to humanity. It’s that same emptiness that will bring humanity to Christ, through us.
What does it look like to live empty? It might look differently to each of us. How do we respond when God asks us to give up something or someone so that He can fill us with the fullness of His life–so that when we are poured out, His life is given through us rather than a paltry collection of cute cliches and soft impacts?
There is nothing in this life that we can hold onto or that will sustain us. There is nothing in this world worth crowding out God. As this year winds down and I prepare to step into a new one, I’m asking God to show me the grace of daring to live empty.