Guest Contributors,  Path of Death,  Series

Day 32: Empty Space

Written by Tracey Grutz

Maybe it was a mistake. Four years ago, I uttered a prayer, “Lord, teach me about rest…”. Faithful to His nature, He took my plea seriously and launched me into a journey I didn’t really know I asked for: pain and loss- and LOTS of it, so debilitating it carved deeply into my triathlon training regimen and pinned me to my bed for weeks and weeks. My body has never been the same.

Yet, it took me no time at all to fill that vacancy with new things; always ambitious and active, I discovered new passions and desires, and necessary tasks. No empty space or void allowed. I will not be found idle!

Over the past year, my family and I have undertaken an enormous task of selling our home and moving across town to a place suitable for my parents to live with us. Mom is declining with Alzheimer’s and while Dad is her primary caretaker, he needs help. As we began this process early last spring, I also said “yes” to a friend’s need for a long term substitute for her 7th grade home-school class. At the same time, I was still directing a full community of 45 home-educated elementary-aged children. During the summer, we relocated and spent the next three months remodeling our basement into an apartment for my parents, I commenced an intensely demanding teaching position with our home-school program, embarked on another year of our own home-education for my four children, my boys ran cross-country for the first time, and my Dad seriously needed help faster than we could prepare to offer it. Our days were long… And, I cried. A lot.

Still this echo of my prayer from years ago: “Lord, teach me about rest…”

Now, contemplating the next season ahead, God, through my husband, has asked me to consider stepping away from teaching outside the home. I also sensed that I needed to reject the offer to speak at one or more of our annual Parent Practicums provided through our home-school programs. HARD obedience as passions are pressed aside.

So, here I am, finishing out these last weeks of the current school year, and what I see ahead is… space. While a growing portion of me is holding my breath, awaiting the opportunity for an enormous exhale, there is another part of me that is terrified. Too much open space scares me. Undesignated time leaves me afraid of boredom, which will, naturally, lead to slothfulness, which, of course, will land me squarely in the pit of despair and depression. I glance through my front window and my eyes alight upon this new-to-us yard. It is wide open. One lonesome tree in about a half-acre of vacuousness. The grass isn’t even promising to be pretty. I mourn the loss of the yard I left- I had lovingly filled it with beauty: flowers, rocks, trees… And I find myself wondering what to do with all this yawning space here… where do I begin? It’s overwhelming and feels a little hopeless. Maybe if there were at least TREES, I would have a structure, a frame work, some definition, a starting place…

I contemplate the true nature of my fears about removing the “trees” of my life: who will I be? What value will I have if I am not “producing” or teaching others’ kids, or speaking publicly? Will I be seen, sought, appreciated? What will I do in this emptiness, this void?…

A conversation with my 10th graders about C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet rings in my ears… In the tale, Ransom, the protagonist, after being whisked away to the planet of Malacandra and meeting ethereal and sinless creatures there, reflects on his misguided judgments about space. He is hurdling back to earth in a little space ship:

“But already it had become impossible to think of it as ‘space’. Some moments of cold fear he had; but each time they were shorter and more quickly swallowed up in a sense of awe which made his personal fate seem wholly insignificant. He could not feel that they were an island of life journeying through an abyss of death. He almost felt the opposite- that life was waiting outside the little iron egg-shell in which they rode, ready at any moment to break in… – C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, p. 145

God whispers: Tracey, what would change if YOU perceived space this way- as the “heavens” full of life and vitality, of possibility and awe? What difference would it make if your personal fate became wholly insignificant? What if your tenacious grip on your little constructed egg-shell of life and activity is the very thing holding you back from the abundance of blessing and vibrancy waiting outside? What if the space you fear is not the abyss of death and emptiness you imagine it to be?

Genesis 1:1- In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth… God CREATED… SPACE… not a void abyss of death and nothingness, but a wondrous vastitude of opportunity.

He is inviting: will you allow Me to show you the stuff of space as I perceive it and have fashioned it? Will you co-create it with me? Will you trust me to fill it with abounding vitality and beauty? Will you rest with Me?

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