As I was reading in Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, I realized that for years I had been running on empty.
I spent most of my time reacting to every situation with whatever emotion was handy at the time.
In fact, I look back and see a lot of doing exactly what I did not want to do in just about every situation.
I felt out of control and constantly disappointed with myself.
I saw clearly the woman I was- in all my brokenness and shame- and I knew it was a far cry from the woman of God I longed to be.
I knew I was helpless to get myself there. I had tried and failed.
And in my desperation I reached out for God.
Ruth Burton grasped the cry of my heart in that season so well…
Without solitude we are dangerous in the human community and in the Christian community, because we are at the mercy of our compulsions, compelled by our inner emptiness into a self-oriented, anxious search for fullness in the next round of activities, accomplishments or relationships. When we are not finding ourselves loved by God in solitude, in the company of others we are always on the prowl for ways they can fill our emptiness. We enter life in community trying to grab and grasp from others what only God can give.
Yes! I had been looking to others to fill me in ways that only God can.
This word keeps coming up.
What makes us full?
What are you trying to fill up on?
God had to remove all my close friendships and send me into the desert to make me realize what I was trying to fill up on- self-sufficiency, controlling my life, friends that thought I was a “good Christian.” I wanted their approval more than God’s, and many times used that as the “measuring stick” for my progress in faith.
Now I see that those relationships were never meant to fill that role. Only God, through his precious Son Jesus Christ, and his Holy Spirit living in us, can satisfy the longings of our empty souls.
Yesterday, I was reading Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan prayers and devotions, and the prayer was entitled Fullness in Christ. God was repeating this theme, and in this repetition I felt the weight of importance in this message to my spirit.
“O God, thou has taught me that Christ has all fullness and so all plentitude of the Spirit, that all fullness I lack in myself is in him…that it is my duty, out of a sense of emptiness, to go to Christ, possess, enjoy his fullness as mine, as if I had it in myself, because it is for me in him; that when I do this I am full of the Spirit…help me to delight more in what I receive from Christ, more in that fullness which is in him, the fountain of all his glory.”
The entire prayer is so beautiful. It touched my heart deeply, for I felt as though the person who wrote it knows how precious it is to be filled by Christ- for that knowledge to begin to dawn inside of you- that I don’t have to run on empty anymore.
In his book, A Gospel Primer, Milton Vincent beautifully expresses all the riches of the gospel in a refreshing and soul-stirring rendition unlike any I have ever read. I continue to read portions of it to remind myself of the basic gospel truths that my heart desperately needs to meditate on daily.
And today, God, in his loving-kindness and graciousness to me, took me to this passage again…
On the most basic of levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist.
Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel…What happens to my appetites for sin when I am filled with the fullness of God in Christ? Jesus provides this answer: ‘He who continually comes to Me will never hunger or thirst again.’
I am satisfied, as with a feast, when I fill myself with all the fullness of Christ.
O LORD, my heart is so full of praise and glory to your precious Name. As I sit here and reflect on your love for me, how you have made yourself known to me- tears of thankfulness spill forth. Your love and faithfulness awes and humbles me. The peace you give transforms and steadies me. My heart wells and overflows with joy. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for reaching out to us, for giving an endless measure of mercy and grace, poured out daily upon us through your Holy Spirit. O precious Savior, help us to abide in you, fill us with your fullness that we may know the blessedness of all the riches found in you. Reveal to us the counterfeit ways we are trying to fill ourselves with worldly pleasures and vices. May our hearts be tender and malleable in your hands, eager to serve, love, and obey. In Jesus Name, I pray and praise, Amen.