“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11
One of my greatest pleasures during our recent trip to Orlando was watching the silverback gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK). Majestic, graceful and intimidating describes them best but they are also gentle and present. Standing there, only 25 feet or so from this awesome male, I was aware of the privilege of this experience. It was a gift I was empty enough to receive. Childlike joy bubbled up inside my heart when the gorilla moved, ever so slowly, balancing himself on his arms he turned revealing the reason for his name. Sauntering peacefully to another spot 20 feet away where better tasting leaves lay he settled again beside a tree. Simple, intentional contentment.
That is what I seem to be lacking recently. Contentment is fleeting and the simple does not satisfy like it use to. My heart is stirring for connection. What can be filled (with joy or anything else) that is not empty? Certainly not the human heart. “Fill me with Your Spirit!” I pray, but the filling is often shallow. “Show me Your glory!” I ask, while missing the sunset outside my window. But not that day at DAK when He graced me with the presence of His creation, so unfamiliar. That day I didn’t miss His glory. Today, however, God’s generosity fills the capacity of my own heart, cracks and all, but rocks of worry, fear, apathy and emotional wounds take up space like fluid in my lungs, hindering spiritual oxygen from entering my soul. So today I’m asking for the gift of empty. “LORD, Empty my heart of all unrighteousness!”
“Let go,” He responded, “The gift of empty comes from surrender.”
So that’s it. I have been ignoring confession in prayer, stacking up sin like dirty dishes no one wants to clean. Instead I was coming to Him, downcast in my spirit, day after day with prayers of intercession which has not brought the joy that is my inheritance. I lack the peace that surpasses understanding. But God’s ways are different. Instead of hiding the ugliness He wants to take it from us. When we bring our burdens of sin to God through confession, agreeing with Him on every point, purging iniquity and praising His name He cleans “the inside of the cup.” The nauseous burden of sin is relieved, bringing us to a place of humility and forgiveness, giving us courage to team fully with His Spirit and filling us with His joy.
When I was in Florida it was easy to be empty. It was sunny and warm and we were visiting our son at Disney World where the bushes sing. Then we flew home to the cold, away from the sun and our son. Back to the reality of everyday and the uncertainty of the future. Also, I was sick for a few weeks. Doctor sick. Then there was the reality of loss. Two people I knew lost their husbands in their 50’s within three months of each other. The news was on, bad news. I allowed myself to be filled with fear, doubt, discontent and depression. Thinking about it now I want to laugh. Jesus is there, right there in me. He never left but I did. It wasn’t that I was mad at Him or even apathetic about Him. Rather, I was distracted and worried, missing Him. Having a heart full of worry, fleshly desires and depression leaves little room for God’s filling.
In the book, The Crucified Life, Tozer encourages the letting go of everything but Jesus Christ. Only then can we be one-hundred-fold Christians. He profoundly states,
“From the day of Pentecost on down to this present hour, there is only one thing on the Holy Spirit’s mind: to fill the Church with His glorious presence. His message is simply, ‘Empty yourself, and I, the Holy Spirit, will come fill you to overflowing.'”
A.W. Tozer, The Crucified Life
Emptying yourself, giving everything to God through confession and repentance, leads to a filling of His glorious presence! May we all be filled with His life giving presence this New year as we give Him the Gift of Empty everyday.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I will be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”