The Days Between Emptiness and Hope

Sometimes change is like being notified that your favorite parts of life are being discontinued. Change has brought me the best of things via the hardest roads and every time it’s a challenge to believe that what lies on the other side of the loss and discomfort is goodness.

In a grand sweep of change, I turned down a graduate degree program and left a job. My whole life shrunk to fit inside a Volkswagen Beetle as I drove clear across the country without so much as a towel. For three thousand miles, the springs of a two slice toaster bounced obnoxiously on the backseat. My five year career plan landed in the “discard” pile and I haven’t yet found the plans, friendships, or home to account for those lost.

There’s no way to force something else into what was, there is just the ache of friends changing life phase, community moving away, and one road ending.

As I count the weeks to months I’ve spent reshaping my life, I realize how uncomfortable I am with emptiness. I am bothered by the boxes of tin foil still on the back seat of my car and by not having news or answers when friends call. I am anxious to fill up the spaces, fighting shame, and holding a subconscious fear that winter might be my fault.

I hadn’t realized how much my sense of success and identity were impacted by maintaining a life that is full. When life gets thin, it seems to threaten everything at my core. All the blanks spots that were once filled insinuate that I have failed. Those blanks, with their big voices, question whether I’m capable of anything other than smallness, because here I am again, redefining what makes up my life. Just when I thought I was finally earning my turn to be seen and validated, it seemed my life emptied out again.

This season is about to end, but I am reluctant to believe it, scared of being fooled by hope. But right at the cusp of vibrant new life, I can hear that small wise voice saying, “don’t leave this place without seeing Me in it, without choosing to be now the person you want to be when the season changes.” Because while this will end, I will continue.

If I’m not careful, I will show up in tomorrow suspicious of goodness, convinced of lack, and as tired and afraid as I am here. I won’t be able to see the promises or the opening blooms. I’ll miss it, taking my lack with me, stuck inside of “not enough.”

I have to give myself to hope when I can barely feel it waking, while it still feels risky, even naive. I have to live and look for abundance when what I feel is only scarcity.

While these days may feel scraped out and bland, when I zoom out to look across it all, life continues to hold daily shades of beauty—the center of an orange cinnamon roll, the warmth of potatoes boiling, and the very best kind of peace. It’s the kind that’s present at the end of a really hard but truthful season when you settle into something lasting.

Lack would have me miss this. Lack would have me cycle through all the seasons without ever planting or harvesting because I came to believe that deep down my life is only ever winter.

I am making my peace with vacancies, learning that emptiness is not a punishment, and appreciating the beauty that comes in bareness. By leaning into the quiet, I hold out a space for what is new and coming. He is showing me how to look differently at empty spaces and this is making all of life more beautiful. And I crave this internal transformation even more than that of Spring—to be able to see and cherish what is around me, and to not miss the depth of a single season.

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