You know the little boy in The Sixth Sense who saw dead people? Well, I see empty spaces. That vacant corner over there where the garbage can is supposed to be. I see that. The blank wall beckoning for art, photography, sculpture, anything (!) to fill up the empty canvas. I see that too.
I see empty spaces all to easily. I can spend hours imagining just the right furniture arrangement for this room, dreaming up the perfect drapes for the dining room, or even visualizing a future day when my husband's closet is beautifully organized. But lately I have struggled to to close my eyes to the empty places and open my mind to the fullness of God's Word. I just cant seem to sit down to concentrate on anything but the empty places.
So I opened the Valley of Vision instead. This amazing little "collection of puritan prayers and devotions" astounds me. In a prayer titled, "Contentment," Arthur Bennett describes trials (like my own) this way:
"It is Thy (God's) mercy to afflict and try me with wants,
for by these trials I see my sins,
and desire severance from them."
Mercy? It is merciful to try me with wants? It is merciful to conflict my soul over time spent home-decorating vs. time spent studying the Bible? What mercy systematically discloses my day dreaming as carefully disguised sin? I've worked long and hard to hide my skeletons in a pretty white-washed tomb, and You're telling me it's MERCY to dig up the bones?
"Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations,
and be delivered from it with gratitude to Thee,
acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Thy love. "
Acknowledging this as the highest testimony of God's love. Just this. That misery, sorrows, and temptations are all gifts disguised as trials. If they can cause me to feel my sin as the greatest evil and drive me to beg for deliverance - this is a gift. Sin is what turns His Providence into my pain. Sin is what separates me from Christ. Sin is what keeps me from desiring deliverance from sin. If trials offer a way out of all these pits, then aren't trials really a gift from God? Misery, sorrows, and temptations are the highest testimony of His love. They offer restored relationship.
"Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued
I must not only labor to overcome it,
but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it."
The landscape of my heart felt like an exhumed graveyard. I've spend years identifying the sins of my heart, digging them up and leaving the pits behind. But the Christian life is not supposed to be like an exhumed graveyard - riddled with deep traps and headstones proclaiming the sins that used to fill me. Where was the firm foundation? Where were the strongholds of Truth? Where were the fruits of the Spirit sustaining me on this journey?
And then I realized. I never invited Christ to fill the holes. I never invited Him to abide in the empty places where sin used to rest. I just lived among this mine field of empty pits and tripped over headstones reminding me of sins that used to be. Of sins that threaten to return to their old places in the ground.
Is this my trial? Not my conflict over spending too much time considering the empty places in my house. But rather, the conflict of not addressing the empty places of my heart. Is figuring out how to let Christ abide in the place of sin my gift of mercy driving me to restored relationship? Was it sin that convinced me to leave the empty places empty?
As if these questions were not enough to chew on for one morning, seven more (good and perfect?) trials arrived on my front doorstep. For by these trials I see my sin...and by God's great mercy, desire severance from them. Come, Christ. Come. Fill my empty places. Restore me unto You.
1. Cut the palm of my hand (deep!) on that sly little razor edge along the aluminum foil box
2. Watched oldest son "help" youngest son pour out almost every drop of sticky White Grape Juice over the edge of cup, onto counter, and spread to chair seats, kitchen floor and under edge of Pottery-Barn rug.
3. Discovered a week's collection of cereal crumbs under the chairs, now mixed up with sticky White Grape Juice
4. Lost the battle to control my tongue (insert yelling, complaining, ridicule and demeaning chatter)
5. Watched youngest son smack back of his head on counter while sliding down chair to "help" Mommy
6. Shrank under the weight of conviction, repentance, embarrassment, frustration
7. Listened to oldest daughter "console" Mommy after all was said and done with, "That's all right, Mom. You were worse the other day in the car."