When the empty isn’t empty

Lying in bed last night, I could feel my mind turning on as I turned out the light.  Fortunately, I’d been practicing all my acceptance skills during the day and felt at peace.  A few hours ago, my mind tried to hook me with stories about whether or not I’d sleep well that night.  I lovingly replied (yes, out loud) “Thanks, Mind.  That’s an interesting story that you’ve told me repeatedly.  I don’t need to hear it again.”

Acceptance doesn’t stop the unrelenting mind, but it does put it in its proper place. 

Last night, I prayed and rested in God’s embrace. When anxious thoughts popped up, I let them be and refocused on breathing.  Repeatedly running “your grace is sufficient for me” through my mind also helped quiet my body and spirit. 

At one point, Dennis’s breathing sounded really loud.  Initially, this was annoying and I elbowed him once to turn over.  Then, a calming and accepting idea occurred to me and I prayed: “Thank you, God that Dennis is here breathing beside me.” 

It didn’t stop the noise, but it sure changed my experience of it.

Reflecting back, I see how frequently I’ve used the idea of “acceptance” in a flippant way, as a means to regain my sense of control over my feelings.  True acceptance is literally “taking what is given”. Sometimes feelings are enjoyable and sometimes they’re not.  Accepting means I don’t have to spend time and energy striving to fix or alter my thoughts and feelings. 

This morning, I was reminded of a quote from Tish Harrison Warren that I’ve found so meaningful over the years: “The vulnerable places where I find fear are the very places that Jesus is willing to enter and fill until there is only room for love. The stillness I am seeking leaves space in me to be filled by Jesus. The empty isn’t empty if God enters it.”

Previously, the part about stillness leaving space to be filled by Jesus caught my attention most poignantly.  Today though, my heart responded to: The empty isn’t empty if God enters it. 

God entered my heart and mind during moments of anxiety last night.  He filled the space where fear wanted to reside.  These parts of our lives that feel most vulnerable and scary are the very ones that the triune God uses to pull us closer to him. 

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