Monday, December 30, 2013

Empty Spaces

In two days, a new year arrives with all the hope and promise of fresh beginnings. For many years, as January neared, I took some time to reflect on what I wanted from the time or season to come: things I wanted to change, things I wanted to make, things I wanted to leave behind. Quite often, I'd find myself settling on a word or phrase that I'd hoped would define the next movement of my life.

When I started that maybe a decade ago, it was a few words hidden in the introduction of a Christian comedian's DVD. The words I heard, and you had to listen hard to hear them, were "Go on your journey; be who you are." And for a year, I reflected on the journey and who I might be. Who I might ought to be.

A few years later (I don't remember the ones in between), I came upon a verse in Hebrews that was entirely what I needed at that time. Take a new grip with your tired hands. Stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong. (12:12-13) That verse hung on my dresser for a full year, and my life was defined by the first two sentences - Get a grip. Stand up. That was what I needed.

The year after that, I switched to one powerful word. A word so powerful that...four years later...I couldn't even tell you what it was. But man, at the time, it mattered. I think.

Then two years ago, for 2011, I came up with three phrases, which I spent the last week of December painting onto poster board. The phrases went like this: Live a life worthy.... Be fully that.... Let your life speak.... Each was a half-phrase meant to inspire me to fulfill the unwritten part, which would have read: ...of the calling of God. ...which God created in you and nothing more, and nothing less. And then of course, the last one, was simply a call to action. In 2012, I left those words up. In 2013, I left them yet again. I could think of nothing better to define my life.

And here we are with 2014 around the corner. After three years, I have taken those words down.

It's not that they do not represent something real in my life; they absolutely still do. But this is no longer the prominent journey I am on. This is no longer the best representation of what I want to do next. It's still an admirable way of living, but to continue to hold these words as my inspiration, I fear, may hold me back. I know it would. So late last week, I pulled them down.

Then what goes up in their place? What am I looking for in 2014? The simple answer is: I don't know.

My sacred place is filled with empty spaces right now. It's filled with open doors and blank canvases and this incredible anticipation of what comes next. Some might argue that you have to know where you're going. It might bother some people to let go of the old thing without knowing what new one is coming. Some may argue I should have kept my old words until I knew what replaces them. Not that long ago, I would have been some people

But not any more. I don't think I have to know what the new thing is to understand that the old one isn't working any more. I don't think I have to know where I'm going to know that I can't stay here. I don't think I have to know what comes next to let go of what is now. I don't even have to know that something is certainly coming. Because I think for all of us, at least for me, you reach a place where to stay would be stifling, even though the unknown is scary.

People ask me a lot these days what's next. As a product of my recent adventures, everyone wants to know where my next step takes me. You know? I'm not entirely sure. I have some ideas, some hopes, some dreams. Even some inklings of calling. Even some profound calling. But when I'm asked this question, I generally just smile that big, coy smile I've got and declare with a bounce, "I'm on to the next big thing!" Even though I don't know, for certain, what the next big thing is.

I may not know by Wednesday what's coming. I may not need to know. Right now, I've created an empty space between what was and what is coming, and I'm not in too big of a hurry to fill it. If I spend my life plugging things into the gaps, I leave little room for God to sneak in without blowing things up. Empty spaces create an invitation. They make a place for God to work, and maybe that is what I need above all. Who knows?

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