As we continue to mature (and our perspective also matures), we have the opportunity to give and nurture life in new ways. But sometimes we experience change as more of an ending than a beginning, more of a loss than a gift.
And in every big change we do lose something. Specifically in the transition of midlife, we lose or are forced to let go of certain life-giving aspects of our life that we’ve given a great deal to. Perhaps our children have all left home, and we have “empty nest” syndrome. Or perhaps we no longer have the energy it takes to run marathons. Perhaps we let go of our dream of becoming an astronaut (or ___________ ) because it’s no longer realistic.
Loss leaves a hole, and that hole can make us aware of a more pervasive emptiness within us. Missing our friends at our old job can open us up to suddenly realizing how lonely we are. From feeling the emptiness of our home after our last child has moved out, we can start wondering if our inner emptiness means that we missed our vocation in life.
Potential for New Ways of Giving Life
Although feeling empty doesn’t feel good, it is something to rejoice in—because God can only fill us if we are empty! When we feel an inner emptiness, when we recognize our insufficiency, we give God room to enter and to fill us with his gifts.
Sometimes God seems to let the emptiness grow—from a small loss to a gaping hole. It’s not that God want us to suffer. What he is really doing is letting our emptiness and longing for him build—either so that he can make us a greater gift, or so that we have the capacity to truly receive what he wants to give us.
Emptiness is a daunting feeling, but it’s actually a part of being human. We are made for God, we are made for eternal beatitude. Living in the “not yet” of life here on earth helps us to prepare our hearts to receive God more fully. Becoming aware that we are incomplete, that there are “holes” in our lives that we long to have filled, enables us to depend or “lean” more on God and to receive fully what he wants to give us.
When we experience a sense of inner emptiness, we may wish to pray with the Canticle of Philippians (2:5-11)—that celebrates Jesus’ self-emptying in order to redeem us. We might find it helpful to pray with the sentiments of the following prayer.
Prayer in Emptiness (A Kenosis Prayer)
Jesus, I come to You today empty.
I don’t feel I have anything to bring to You except my poor self.
And today, that doesn’t feel as if it’s enough.
I feel helpless and vulnerable, lost and desolate.
This sharp-edged emptiness reminds me
how dependent I truly am on You,
that I am not self-sufficient,
that I need to learn to trust You always more.
You experienced this emptiness while You were here on earth.
You let go of not just the fullness of divinity but even of the human respect You deserved,
in order to be with us, to teach us, to serve us, and to save us.
You emptied Yourself for me, so that I can offer my emptiness to You to be filled.
Divine Master, fill me with what I need most:
Your love and Your grace.
Hold me close to Your Merciful Heart
until the day that I am made whole in You,
immersed in the loving embrace of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.