Sunday, December 5, 2010

What's left in an empty box?

The last few weeks, I have been more discouraged, depressed, and distressed than I can remember feeling in a long, long time. I have metaphorically banged my nose on more closed doors than ever before. This chapter of my life is coming to an end, but I don’t know what’s next, and I don’t know how to fulfill my responsibilities until whatever’s next arrives. I’m lost in the dark, swinging a lantern wildly and not seeing any path before my feet. All I see is . . . nothing.

I feel like God is scouring me out, like you would a cookpot, scrubbing away at stubborn stains until they gradually surrender to the inevitable and drift away down the drain. Preconceptions, expectations, even aspirations, have all disappeared, and every time I think there’s nothing left inside, I realize the loss of something else I only vaguely knew was there in the first place.

But what do you do when the cookpot’s clean? You fill it up again, with something new. Something good. Something useful. You can’t use the pot for its intended purpose until all of the previous gunk is wiped away.

I was reading Second Corinthians today, and the following passage, as well-known to me as it was already, struck me as particularly pertinent:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10, New International Version.

I haven’t reached the point where I can say I’m delighting in these circumstances. Not when I’m having anxiety attacks like the one I had earlier today when I realized I’m going to have to do something that I don’t think I am physically able do. But I have reached the point of saying that I am weak. This thing must be done, and I must do it. But I can’t. So Christ will have to do it through me. And that is a glorious thing.

When Pandora opened the jar Zeus had given her, and released all the evil into the world, and the jar looked empty, there was one thing left. Even though I feel empty, I do have at least one thing left in my soul – hope.