Posted on April 3, 2016
Posted on April 3, 2016
I’m reading Emily P. Freeman’s latest book, Simply Tuesday. Emily’s writing always challenges me to think in new ways. Even more, she seems to put eloquent words to the thoughts already in my head. This week, I read her thoughts on wearing the world like a loose fitting garment. I had to stop and take stock of the past few weeks.
A couple of months ago, I set out on a two day personal retreat where I outlined plans and goals to intentionally live out my personal and professional life. One of the big ideas I took away from that time alone was that Emptiness Precedes Fullness. In every area of my life, I could see how that phrase should be applied. It’s been more than clear to me, it’s a spiritual discipline I’m learning, where I empty my schedule, my to-do list and my need to overdo things, for a more intentional, simple rhythm of life.
The key word here is discipline.
I started off great! I went back to work with an intentional mindset. I stopped multi-tasking and dedicated time to specific tasks without allowing interruptions. I limited my social media time to make room for other things that needed attention. I set a date on my calendar for a monthly check-in to my goals. And then, life happened. My monthly check-in was set aside for other plans. My Monday morning planning sessions started becoming a multi-tasking frenzy, and I was quickly off track.
I’d forgotten the discipline of it all. I’d forgotten to create empty spaces so that progress to my goals could fill the holes. I remembered that emptiness precedes fullness, but I couldn’t seem to reel myself back in. I began to feel like I was wearing my world like a straight jacket instead of a loose fitting garment.
Guilt started to take over, followed quickly by hurry, anxiety and control. The more I thought about how far off track I was, the more I started to feel hurried and anxious. For me, anxiety quickly leads to a need for control, and a need for control leads to agitation and frustration. In an attempt to recover some of the discipline I’d committed to, I wrote a huge to-do list, trying to remember all the things that had breezed through my mind over the course of a week, jotting them down for one day’s monumental task of completing them.Fullness Precedes Emptiness. Right? Writing down a long to-do list, whittling it down and crossing them off the list should create the space I need, right? No! The fullness of that list created in me more anxiety which my need for control feasted on. Despite checking things off the list, I still felt agitated and hurried. I had no space that could be filled with other things.
Jesus never lived like this. He never mowed through life like a task-master on a mission to check off boxes on his list. He wore the world like a loose-fitting garment. His worth was not defined by the world’s opinion of him, his impact was not deterred by nay-sayers and haters. He was a man with a mission but not a man on a mission. He created empty spaces for little children to sit with him, and for emergency trips across town to heal the sick. He wasn’t so driven by his mission that he missed the opportunity to feed the bellies of his people before he fed their souls.
Instead of the hurry, worry and control, Jesus invites us in to the discipline of emptiness. He calls to us to come away and make space for our souls to breathe in his love and compassion, and exhale out all the crazy. He tells us that his way is easy and doesn’t burden us unnecessarily. He reminds us that we can be worried about our many things, but in the end only one thing is necessary. (See the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10.)
Yes, I still have things I have to do. I have plans and responsibilities. But I can choose to set some lesser things aside to create hollow spaces that God can fill with things that will transform my life. The discipline is learning to say “No” to some things so that I can say “Yes” to the most important things.
What do you need to say “No” to so that you can create empty spaces for God to fill?
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