I feel the emptiness inside me like a chasm,
a great yawning void that swallows everything and remains still unsatisfied. A black echo wide open in my chest, extending through my ribs and out my back into infinite depth. A hole that absorbs all sound and light.
I keep trying to fill it up with a familiar cocktail – tweaking the recipe and trying over and over again to no avail:
two parts effort
one part hot tears
three swallows of rum
(or a bottle of wine)
a half-day spent working
a dash of futile attempts at distraction
two cups of coffee, half unfinished
six text messages to two different friends
four games of pick-up basketball
a long walk in the snow
music pouring through my headphones, louder
a handful of religious words half-believed
restless sleep that never grants me unconsciousness
swirling anger swallowed again like vomit in my mouth
desperation for an easy solution that I know does not exist
I mix it all together and toss it down my throat, watch it disappear into the inky black that is never never filled.
(Try again. Maybe this time it will make a difference.)
“God can fill the void inside.”
I hear it over and over again — from people I love, people I trust. People I want to believe. This shit isn’t working.
So as I walk across the icy parking lot with cold air hitting my lungs, I pray:
“Dear God, I…
(I’ve mostly given up praying what I should pray, and instead only pray what is honest.)
“Dear God, I don’t believe that you can fill this void inside of me. If you want to prove me wrong, go for it.”
For a moment, I hesitate. Maybe I should hit backspace, edit it, pray what the formula demands.
(“Dear God, I believe.”)
I turn the words over in my mind, but decide not to say them. We both know I’d be lying.
“Help my unbelief.”
(I say this part for good measure, a half-hearted attempt to make God consider my request. But I have a feeling that if God’s going to do this shit, it’s not going to be because I said the magic words.)
I get in my car drive and away with the emptiness still throbbing inside, a roaring ache that never consumes me but is never silent either.
Don’t misunderstand – this isn’t intellectual doubt about the existence of a deity, or theological wranglings about how to resolve the problem of pain.
Nor is this about a simple prayer to let Jesus come into my heart and fill the God-shaped hole; if that was the solution for the emptiness, all my existential angst would have been cured one night when I was eight years old.
This is about
I can’t imagine that ANYTHING could fill this hole. It has become a part of me, as much as my skin or my blood is a part of me. It contains all of my humanity – my longing, my despair, my frail trust, my desire for home, my fear of being unloved, my tenuous relationship with hope – all these are shadows in the blackness of this hole in (and beyond) my chest.
God surely cannot be just another ingredient in the cocktail, mixed in alongside music and books and liquor and feeble attempts to get outside my own head.
God’s love must be more than a battery-powered flashlight whose beam could never pierce the thick shroud of this blackness.
If this hole really is “God-shaped”… God must be vast indeed. If God can begin to touch (what feels like) the infinite depth of this chasm, God must be an infinite universe.
I cannot imagine that. It’s hard to allow myself to hope for that.
It’s easier to ask God to take it away than to trust that God could fill it.
It’s easier to keep grasping at wisps than to admit that I am helpless.
It’s easier to not pray at all than to pray not knowing how (or if) God could ever answer.
I hope God will prove me wrong.
Always, I hope.
[ image: frigus ]
published November 19, 2014
subscribe to updates:
(it's pretty much the only way to stay in touch with me these days)