We soon realized the little windows along both sides of our front door would be problematic. When we were eating or sitting on the couch or doing dishes, little faces would peer in at us. Then the kids would begin knocking, as they knew that we knew they were waiting outside.
A friend came over and covered them with some vinyl, frosted sheets within a few months. Suddenly we could finish a meal without interruptions. We could sit in the living room at night with the lights on and not be watched.
I didn’t know how much peace those little covered windows would bring me. I thought I could manage it, thought it was right and good to be “real” and have an “open door” and be “welcoming.” And, it’s true. Those are wonderful things.
What I needed to learn is the outward building of relationships with others is directly connected to the inner building of a relationship with Jesus. And, as wonderful as those things were, I could not continue carrying them out, humanly speaking, with mere passion and compassion. I ran right into empty.
Bridge-builders need to find quiet and hold on with both hands.
We can talk and write and talk and write about the beauty of building relationships. But, we are only as good at bridge-building as we are at being quiet.
Bridge-building takes a settledness and a quietness of our souls. It takes time – more time than I expected – away from the talking and the busy and the eyes peering in the windows. Without this soul-quiet, we will burn up and out with the first dose of messy.
In the quiet, the depths are plumbed and the heights are scaled and our hearts expand enough to contain the beauty and the purpose of relationships.
Truth is, there are days when I can’t bring myself to care, not even answer the door without groaning. There are days when I have nothing to give.
I used to beat myself up on those days, used to think about pressing on and learning to trust God more and pushing myself. And, I’ve learned there is a certain divine provision that comes in the art of building relationships; He does provide the stamina and the patience and the love.
Yet, bonds between humans, lines between souls, are too special and too valuable to tromps into with only caffeine and obligation as our guides. Prayerlessness always shows up as the uninvited guest. Exhaustion is close behind. I’ve jumbled up so many situations because of showing up jumbled up on the inside; I over-analyzed or reacted without processing or talked out of insecurity or vented for no good reason.
Friends, the relationships we aim to build will become casualties if our quiet spaces run empty.
So, because you are human and in desperate need of the Divine, take time to be His. Be willing to step back, to trust God with your surrender. Be filled, be sustained, find your quiet and return often. After all, caring in a true and authentic way for others must include caring as well for you, yourself.
Let His presence be the peace you are able to extend into the relationships around you.
Here’s a post I wrote on a similar topic in January of 2015:
Days and nights I’ve trudged through this muddied life-path, because He whispered to me about the divine destination. Days and nights, this heart would not quit, because He had set it to the rhythm of His own.
But I’ve been emptied. Poured out. Every drop exhausted.
And, the truth of it all? This emptying only happens through great pain. Maybe it’s a diagnosis or a phone call, an accident or conflict, a loss or change – but whatever the catalyst, the emptying begins. And the tears, messy and necessary, wash away the remnants of self-reliance and security.
Then, suddenly, I’m hollow, and that’s no longer a bad thing. Self has been made powerless, stripped bare. Willingness has won over Wants this time.
So, today, I come empty. I’m bringing my open hands to sit and wait before Him.
Today, I remember the story of this widow who found herself crying out to the prophet Elisha. Her heart was still mourning the loss of her husband and now her children were about to be taken as slaves in order to pay off her late husband’s debt. Life had turned her world upside down and the painful emptying ripped it all away.
Husband – gone. Money – gone. Security – gone. Ideal family – gone. Hope – gone.
And somehow in the midst of the stripping away, the tearing loose of everything that mattered, she found the grace to cry out and admit her desperate need to Elisha. His answer – and her response – always amaze me:
And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” 2 Kings 4:2-4
So she did it. She poured oil into the emptiness of one vessel, then another, then another. When the emptiness ran out, so did the oil.
So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 2 Kings 4:5-8
Yes, when the emptiness ran out, the filling ran out.
And I wonder, did she ever wish she would’ve brought more empty? Did she ever wish she’d knocked on a few more doors, found some more empty, and offered it as well? Because, again, when the emptiness ran out, the filling ran out.
So today, friends, I’m gathering up empty. Here I am, the needy widow, knocking on doors and calling out for every empty vessel: Do you have anything empty? And you? Do you have emptiness? You, there – something empty?
An empty pitcher, a broken heart, aching arms, bottomed-out dreams, devastating news – can we bring all those hollow places and just lay them out before Him? Can we show up void of anything contrived or reliable or valid and simply, only acknowledge the Empty?
Yes, friends, the ache and the emptying out gouged us deep and left a vacated hole – but may we discover today that it’s just deep enough and just wide enough and finally an ample space, just the exact space, for the only real filling. After all, Spirit-filling always swallows up emptiness with His Purpose.
Today, may our barren hearts bow before Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will Provide. May we come empty, trusting the Source. May we come empty, despising our own efforts to mask it.May we come empty, believing the pouring out was for a greater purpose - one we long to see. Click To Tweet
Because surrendered Empty is surely, eventually, intentionally filled with Purpose. And that pain? It’s productive. The searing has a reasoning. The crushing has a calling. And Purpose knows it full well.
Purpose knows that all that empty is the most beautiful, redemption-soaked red carpet that God rolls out to usher in a greater and more glorious filling of His Spirit.
Because He’s the Spirit who flows freely in empty places – hallowed places that have been hollowed out and intentionally gathered up for His filling.
This month’s series is on being a bridge-builder. In short, it’s about how to be like certain individuals who let God show up in their words and deeds and forever changed our little family. But, it’s not a series about our story; it’s as series about how Redemption made our story useful, even valuable, in a greater story.
If Jay and I know anything about being a bridge-builder, it’s because we were the ones stuck on an island. If we understand anything about the power of meeting people where they are and standing in the gap, it’s because that’s how we were rescued – by God, through average people.