Reflections

On Empty

It was a little after 10:00 on a Friday when I drifted into the station. I say “drifted” because it seems like the best word for the action that accompanies the proverbial “running on fumes.” My gas tank was empty – as in, the little red arrow was already below the “E” and my car may or may not have been lurching a little as I sidled up to the pump. I never do that – the milking a tank of gas for all it’s worth before going back to fill up again – but that morning it was raining and, well, when I took my daughter to school I, myself, was still in my plaid fuzzy pajama pants and oversized sweatshirt. I couldn’t bring myself to stop at the gas station dressed like that, so I had gone home to get dressed before tending to the car’s empty tank.

As I limped (if a car can limp, and based on that morning’s experience, I would argue that it can) into the gas station, I continued the prayer that I had been praying – changing my tune from “please let me make it” to “thank you for getting me here.” And sometime between putting the car in park and unscrewing the gas cap, I had a realization.

You see, friends, just as I barely made it into the gas station before my car sputtered to a stop this morning, there are people around us who are running on empty. They are limping along through their lives, praying the whole way that God will just carry them through. Some of them may not even realize that the problems they’re experiencing are because their tanks are empty. Some of them know it well, and just hope somehow they can make it until the next fill up. They’re running on fumes.

The emptiness I’m talking about, though, isn’t related to car care. This emptiness is a soul emptiness.

I’ve felt it, many times.

I’ve felt it on those weekday afternoons when I think, “Am I going to make it? How much longer? How can I keep going?” It’s those afternoons when for whatever reason, my spirit just feels drained. Everything gets on my nerves and my heart just isn’t in anything and my body just wants to curl up for a nap. It’s those afternoons when I wish supper would cook itself…the laundry would make its way into the washing machine on its own….bedtime would just hurry up, already.

And I’ve felt it on those Sunday mornings when I feel like I’m crawling across a finish line as I walk into the church building. On those mornings I am so desperate for an anointed spiritual filling that I feel like my physical body is parched and dry. The community begins to gather….the band begins to play…the preacher begins to speak…and I drink it in with huge desperate gulps. I take it in as though my life depends on it because really, it feels like it does. 

Maybe that’s you today. Maybe you feel parched and dry and desperately needy. It’s been a long week, after all. There have been so many lunches to pack and dishes to wash and good grief…the laundry from last week is still waiting to be put away, and it’s already time to wash again.

Dear friends, I just want to offer you this today: Sunday is coming. It is our chance to draw near to the fountain and be filled. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Sunday morning is not the only opportunity to be filled, and that the paid church staff are not responsible for spoon-feeding us our faith nourishment. However, something special happens on Sunday. Something different happens on Sunday.

If you’re feeling empty today, take heart. Sunday is coming, and you are welcome to come as you are. You don’t have to go home and get yourself together before coming forward to get what you need.

Because how many times have I felt like I was too far gone to be able to reach out for what I knew I needed? How many times have I felt like I couldn’t go in the shape I was in…with the weight I carry or the issues I’m dealing with or (sadly enough) in the clothes I wear? How many times have I felt like I needed to be cleaned up with my act together (or at least with appearance of being put together) before stepping forward to receive what I needed so badly? How many times have I missed out?

And if you’re feeling kind of okay – your tank isn’t quite running on fumes – then I offer you this: watch for those this weekend who may be limping to the finish line. Watch for those who may be coming into the church building on their last ounce of spiritual strength. Watch for those who may be more desperate than others. Watch for those who maybe haven’t cleaned themselves up before coming to get what they so desperately need.

And you – from wherever you are coming from and in whatever you’re going through – may have the opportunity to be a source of life-giving soul nourishment to one who is empty.

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