No one ever tells you about the empty days. This is interesting, I think, because the empty days are much more frequent than social media and conversations with friends and family would lead us to believe. Empty days, as I call them, are when the cup of our lives are drained due to loss or grief or to-do lists and messes that seemingly never end. They are days when the people in our lives or the commitments in our lives demand from us a great deal of energy and effort--so much effort, in fact, that we feel emptied through the giving.
Not talking about empty days doesn't make them any less prevalent...it just makes us question them and question ourselves. As if we might be doing life wrong or something if we are feeling unproductive, fruitless, or even useless. As if the emptiness is somehow outside of our human experience, rather than a regular and integral part of what if means to be alive.
This couldn't be farther from the truth! No one is meant to spend their lives full--in body, mind, or spirit. For a constant fullness leaves no room for anything new to be added. It leaves no room for growth and evolution and transformations.
Author and spiritual midwife, Joyce Rupp, says, "While the process of emptying may be painful, it can also be 'growthful.' The empty times may feel useless, fruitless, and non-productive, but they are actually a means of our falling into the immense depths within ourselves where we see more clearly, learn to be less controlling, long more deeply for God, and touch life with greater reverence and gratitude. We enter into the deep realm inside of us that is filled with the mystery, awe, and endless beauty of God. Emptiness is a gift that opens us further to the transforming power of God."
You see, Dear Ones, the empty days are no reason to panic. We can breathe through them and be filled--in time--by them. We needn't rush to fill them with insights or feelings or "good vibes only"...we can just look into the emptiness. We can just abide with the emptiness. We can, as Joyce Rupp proposes, simply "go inside the emptiness and be with God."
Gazing into the gift of emptiness with you...even when it doesn't feel like such a gift,
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.