Something about empty spaces

Something about empty spaces

My wife, Fiona, has been a Tupperware bandit this year. She’s been selling the gear at a prolific rate. I was always a fan, so it hasn’t been a harsh affliction.

Along the way, I’ve learned a couple of Tupperware-isms and some Tupperware orthodoxy as well: the right way to use Tupperware.

One orthodoxy is over these things called Clear Mates (I’m sure it’s appropriate to capitalise the C and the M and, come to think of it, I should probably have removed the space between the words). Anyway, good orthodoxy with ClearMates is to have them in your fridge in the same location regardless of whether or not they are currently full. So, for example, when you finish off the cheese that’s been in the container, you don’t put the container back in the cupboard. No, no! You wash it, and you put it back in the same location in the fridge to await a further installment of cheese.

The ClearMate is an empty space for what’s anticipated.

In preparing for a couple of messages that will kick off 2016 at The Big Table, I’ve been thinking about those empty spaces.

Curiously, I read a book a couple of months back called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. Who knew it might have application beyond the physical!

One of the fundamental doctrines of the magic of tidying is the belief that true tidiness can only be found when some foundations have been set. I’m not going to talk about all of the tenets of tidying (cause I’d burst the bubble of January) but here’s one: once you’ve established what you’re keeping, everything needs a place.

My ClearMate is waiting for cheese. There’s an empty space waiting to be filled with cheese!

Here’s where tidying moves from your external world to your internal world: when we deliberately create God-glorifying empty spaces for stuff to happen, God is able to join us in overflowing those empty spaces.

‘Commit your ways/work to the Lord and he will act’, says Psalm 37. Set yourself apart for God, ‘draw near to Him and he will draw near to you’ (James 4:8).

Earlier this week I registered the domain for this website: That’s all I’d done – no design, no writing for it, no five-year plan, no real idea what the plan. Just some holy ignorance.

The next morning, I drove to the country to visit a client in Narrogin and on the way down my mind was suddenly firing with possibilities for the website. Stuff I might write about, people I might ask to be involved, what it might look like.

What I’d done, in the simple act of registering a domain, is create an empty space.

The brain’s reticular activating system loves this sort of gear. If every possible impulse had to be processed, our heads might explode, so the reticular activating system helps us sort stuff: relevant, irrelevant.

When we create an empty space for something, we create a ‘relevant category’; information that puts its hand up to be categorised and catalogued because there’s a relevant category that’s been established. There’s now a ClearMate waiting for cheese; that’s where the cheese goes!

Why is all this important to our spirit and soul?

When it comes to framing a new year (as you’ll soon be doing, consciously or not), you will make time for the things you deem important. If you haven’t established those things, you’ll fritter your time away on whatever impulses fill the void.

Being intentional means that you consider the biggest things. What are the things that spark joy, bring life, build relationships, draw you closer to God, cultivate community, fire your passions? Create ClearMates for each of them in your mind so that competing and incidental impulses don’t hijack what you know is important.

For me, this starts with roles and goals. The different roles I have and what I hope will happen within those roles. You may have your method, but be intentional: create empty spaces to be filled with what God wants to do in and through you.

A mate of mine wrote a song we used to sing at church. The lyric I can remember is this: “I’ll make an empty space for you at the centre of my heart“.

The space isn’t empty in a meaningless way; it’s a reserved and meaningful place. It’s a secret place for God to dwell and work in us. And when we clear out the other clutter to create the empty space, we discover that God has been at work all along, watching and waiting. Eager to dwell with us and abide with us.

If you’re thinking: “God doesn’t just want a little bit of empty space, he wants all of us as a living sacrifice”, you’re right.

When we get to work with Jesus, He comes to the party in every space. “Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life”, Jesus says in Matthew 11, “I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.”

Laying down your life for Him begins with creating empty spaces: places reserved for Him to work through you. They’re bookmarks, stop signs, exits and reservoirs. They determine your ‘yes’ and your ‘no’. Empty spaces for community, for time with Jesus, for recreation, for running, for reading, for time with family and friends.

A room for the King of Kings to dwell and move into the neighbourhood.


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