Are you a “glass half-full” kind of person or a “glass half-empty” kind of person”? While I generally endeavor to view life from an optimistic perspective, I confess that I am finding that more difficult these days. Lately, I tend to focus on the empty space in that proverbial glass and on what is missing from life and ministry in this season. Maybe you can relate.
Take for example, our community partnerships and ministries. It is fall and the time of year when the Community Center would be normally be bustling with partners moving in and getting settled. Ordinarily, we would be ramping up our ministries and service opportunities in the community as well. In September we would historically recruit and train Reading Partners to serve in our partner schools. We would be are preparing to welcome back over one hundred students and fifty volunteers to our ESL program. Any other year, my calendar would already be filling up with events and opportunities to serve in partner ministries throughout our community. None of those things are currently happening and I miss them all. From this perspective, my glass looks half (maybe even two-thirds) empty.
There is another way to look at things, of course. More available space in the Community Center has allowed us to provide space to organizations which had previously been housed in school buildings no longer open to outside events. We have been able to offer a classroom for Dallas Daycare Academy to assist older siblings of their students with online learning. Additionally, I am working closely with a small network of leaders from other churches and nonprofits who have come together to create one central hub for meeting the needs and mobilizing volunteers in our community. None of these things would be happening in a “typical” year. The space that has been created in both the Community Center and in our calendar has made it possible to explore new possibilities and meet different needs. One might say that from this perspective, my glass looks half full….or does it?
Have you noticed that when the Bible mentions empty space, it is often soon filled for God’s purposes?
In 2 Kings, Elisha directs an indebted widow who has but a bit of oil to go around and ask all her neighbors for empty jars. When she does, her “little bit of oil” miraculously fills every last jar to the brim, allowing her to sell the oil and pay her debts.
In Luke 5, after an unsuccessful night of fishing in which he “didn’t catch a thing”, Simon is instructed by Jesus to cast his empty nets into the water. The result is nets so full of fish that they begin to tear and fill not one but two boats to the point they begin to sink.
In John 2, Jesus directs the servants at the wedding at Cana to fill the jars used for ceremonial washing with water from which he provides enough fine wine to serve all the gathered guests.
In each case the Lord takes what is empty and fills it with something that is good, something that is valuable, and something which only He can provide.
It is not just the jars and nets (or the buildings and calendars) in my life that need filling. Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
By the power of the Holy Spirit, my empty spaces are available vessels for the Lord to fill. When entrusted to the Him, that which represents loss and scarcity are seen through the eyes of faith as spaces into which I might receive God’s grace and with it hope, joy, and peace. Perhaps the most beautiful part of this reality is this: all of this was made available to me through one more empty thing…a tomb!
I don’t know what empty spaces you are experiencing in this season, and I don’t yet know how the Lord will choose to fill the space and time which lay empty on our campus at the moment. I would challenge us, however, to acknowledge the emptiness because I propose that acknowledging it does not make us pessimistic. Rather, as people of faith, recognizing that we have needs and spaces that only God can fill perfectly positions us to receive the good gifts He offers us through His Word, in the Sacraments and through the beauty of that empty tomb. Thanks be to God!