My husband and I came out of 2015 with one specific lesson learned — to no longer hold space in our lives for things that do not work for us. We had been struggling through expectations that felt like hope until they became to overstretched, heavy and produced negativity. We had to release ourselves from the ‘what’ and ‘how’ should-be’s throughout our life. This included an emptying not just of material things but our relationships and our spiritual lives as well.
Spiritual formation, especially, does not begin with fullness but emptiness. This emptying is an act of re-creating space within. What is surprising is that if we are truly honest and vulnerable with the process, no attachment we have — good, bad or moderately innocent — is off limits. Even Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” (Philippine 2:7)
What does emptiness do?
The first purpose of emptiness is for discernment. The act of letting go is a training to recognize what one continues to hang onto — the hows, the whats and the whys. The practice begins with stillness and letting inherent things arise. When we recognize our attachments, we begin to see things more clearly and become more discerning about the work of God in our lives. This training is essential to strengthening our spiritual discernment muscles. It’s not just about our corrupted parts being revealed. Even the parts of ourselves that may seem rooted in good intentions may not be what the Spirit wants to do with our lives. Letting go of what we perceive as good is not easy and discernment loosens our attachments to what is in order to make space for what will be.
At times people get confused about emptying. They think it’s for the filling. It’s not. The second purpose of emptying is for the flowing. People often take on the spiritual formation of emptying in pursuit of fullness, yet the purpose of this practice is not for individual benefit. The pursuit for benefits is a way of setting expectations. Setting expectations is another form of creating attachments and will only lead one back to the emptying.
Jesus said to the Samaritan woman gave him water in John:13–4, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The emptying is not for the filling but for the flowing.
Christ is an example of this. He emptied himself for the benefit of the world — to let the love of God flow through him. We empty ourselves to become vessels, conduits and channels of this love to the world. We step away from our desires, our good intentions and held beliefs for outcomes to flow with exactly what the world needs now — service, healing and love.
Every attempt at stillness before God is an act of emptying, it’s a willingness to let the flow happen. Christ emptied to let go and flow. He did so that you can empty, let go and flow as well.
(Enjoy the music video above, Empty Me Out, by Liz Vice.)
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