Friday, December 16, 2016

Perpetually Empty

There is a vein of emptiness that runs straight through the human body. It is an emptiness that we spend our lives trying to fill, to no avail. It is the track that runs through our stomachs but can never touch our hearts.

Yes, it is digestive.

The New Testament makes reference to this mystery when it declares that all food is permissible to be eaten, since whatever goes into your mouth goes into your stomach and then into the toilet, never truly permeating anything at all in your being and only temporarily sating your emptiness, which is bound to become empty again.

The discussion is often centered around food, since that is what we so commonly put into this empty space, but taken more broadly, this is true of all things in this world. Whatever it is we come upon, whatever it is we crave, whatever it is that we try to put into ourselves, it fills only a temporary emptiness; it never can quite get into our hearts, to the only place where emptiness is truly haunting. 

That's not to say that the things of this world are useless, that they do nothing for anything, let alone for us. In fact, our perpetual emptiness has learned to absorb something useful from all that passes through it. It is designed to take what is life-giving and leave the rest. It nourishes itself and, appropriately, labels the rest as dung. It is true of food, and it is true of all the other things of this world.

But we have somewhere forgotten how to execute this process. We have forgotten how to let the life of this world pass through us, taking what we need and making waste of the rest. We have forgotten the dung. Rather than taking what this world has that is life-giving, we take it all and shove it into our emptiness, more and more and more, compacting it until our emptiness no longer aches, but hurts. It no longer gnaws at us; it condemns us. For our emptiness finally feels full, if only for a bit, but that fullness itself is empty.

It is because we have forgotten how to hunger. That is our trouble. We have forgotten how to let the pangs of our emptiness remind us of our vacant spaces. We have determined that any emptiness is a brokenness, that it is a trouble or a curse. We have forgotten that the very testimony of our anatomy is that there is a place in us that we were never destined to fill, but only temporarily, that our hunger was always destined to return. 

It's what keeps us aching. It's what keeps us longing. It's what keeps us humble. No matter what we do to this emptiness, we come up with very little bits here and there that are worth keeping, and the vast majority of it all is dung. It's waste. Somewhat akin to the writer of Ecclesiastes, it's all meaningless. Worthless. It goes straight into the toilet.

And that's okay. That bothers most of us, but it's really okay. It's okay for us to take what nourishes us and discard the rest. It's okay for us to trust our design to know the difference. It's okay for us to feast, as long as we're prepared to waste, and as long as we understand that whatever we do to fill our own emptiness, it's only temporary. That's the way we're designed. It's the way we were created.

That way, there is always something in us that longs for more. And in that wise way that God has about Him, in that way of perfect wisdom in which He does things, He said from the very beginning that the answer to that aching, the answer to that gnawing, the answer to that longing is not always bacon.

It's something kosher.

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