The Empty Spaces of Our Lives

Arts and TheologyThis was originally posted on

Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God…”

We believe that empty spaces are wastes of spaces. Like all good Americans we place a high value on efficiency, and how can a vacant moment be accomplishing anything? This is why we have such a hard time with waiting. And this is also why we create all sorts of diversions to make sure we never feel the weight of an ounce of boredom. But things do happen when nothing happens. In fact, the silence of a moment is often when we are confronted with ourselves and with God. And that’s why we want to run away from it.

I’m currently reading through Chuck DeGroat’s book, Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places, and came across this quote from Thomas Merton:

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.

As a musician this makes sense to me. Most people think music is made up of the notes we choose to play, and of course that’s true, but music is also fundamentally about the notes we choose not to play. The rhythms and melodies leave space in the right places. How annoying would it be to have a guitarist play an incredible ripping guitar solo full of a million notes going a million miles per hour on an acoustic ballad? Or how annoying would it be to have a drummer constantly play a drum solo, slamming his sticks into every piece of equipment imaginable in the middle of a singer’s melody? The melody would get lost in the notes.

If all notes and rhythms were being played at once, it would sound like a horrible cacophony. And one interesting point: we can’t even do that if we wanted! No human being on any instrument (that I know of, non-electronic at least) can play every note all the time simultaneously. That should be a good anaology for us.

We submit ourselves to violence every time we try and cram two tons into a 16 oz. container. And then we feel guilty that we couldn’t fit it all in. Knowing what goes in that container requires us to trust and rely on God to tell us: to tell us more of who He is, more of who we are, more of what our world is about. We’d much rather make those decisions ourselves, but we’re not made for that, we can’t do it.

What are the melodies that might be getting lost in your noise of notes? How are we not honoring the empty spaces that God has designed us to live within? When a day doesn’t work as planned, are we completely wrecked? When we don’t cross everything off that to-do list, are we unloving toward others? When a building takes much longer than anticipated, are we unduly frustrated?

We all tend to orient our lives around removing these “empty” spaces, where God is asking us to seek Him in them.

2 thoughts on “The Empty Spaces of Our Lives

  1. A space master is a life master. You bring up some wonderful points to reflect on. Spaces whether they are contracted or expanded, light or dark, full or empty have profound meanings for how we live our lives and what in return is attracted to our lives.

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