The value of emptiness

Let’s say you are a pastor. And let’s say you’ve studied the Bible your entire life. You are supposed to know a lot of things. Indeed, your mind has been filled with many words, and they are close to your heart. But what if one day the words fall flat? What if they suddenly don’t bear fruit in your mind? What if they become like the seed thrown on rocky ground, where they cannot find a place to put down roots?

One possibility is that you have hardened your heart. You have effectively told God that you are done with this business. You have a better way, perhaps a new word that is better than the old word. You’ve decided that the only way to embrace the new is to reject the old.

However, another possibility is that you have simply seen the value of your own knowledge—that it is bankrupt. You have accumulated wisdom over the years like money in a bank account. It appeared that your wisdom was growing. With each new learning, your account grew richer. You became more and more qualified to do what you do. At least that’s the way it seemed.

What then of this sudden experience of emptiness? How can you even proceed in your role if you no longer have the answers? If the words that fed you so richly are now failing to nourish you? You have no idea how to do this! And this in itself is wonderful news. It seems like a crisis, but it is actually a great gift. At this moment, you have become the most fertile ground God could possibly find. You have become an empty vessel, waiting to be filled…and poured out again.

If, when you read, you are only led into confusion, relax your grip and let your hands be empty. Recognize the truth that you never contained His truth. Let go and fall in this state of limbo. By holding on, you only prolong it. When you’re truly falling, it will feel like death at first. But it is actually new life. Once again, God is free to move.

Yielding to God

To yield to God is to give up all the things that don’t matter in this life, for all the things that do. This is not something that you can figure out on your own. If you try, you will become very agitated and confused. Instead, you must “cast off the sin that so easily entangles.” Even your best attempts at serving God count for nothing if they are done in your own strength. They turn sour; they are like “filthy rags”—worth being cast off.

If you find that one day you are inspired, resting in the flow of God’s Spirit, and the next day you are perplexed, it means that you have somehow taken the reins, whether you realize it or not. It means you have failed to trust in God and have taken things into your own hands. You are like a car that has driven off the road but that keeps on going anyway. Counterintuitively, this is how you stay on the road: let go of the steering wheel. God is always there for you. There’s never a moment when He is not speaking to you and directing you. But He won’t keep you from grabbing the wheel. That is your job.

The Good News is that no matter how many times you fail, God is still there, ready to take over once again. The miracle of forgiveness is that God puts a new road right under your feet as soon as you yield to Him again. You are changed, “in the twinkling of an eye.” You are changed because you can see clearly once again. In holding on, you stay in the dark. In letting go, you allow the light. Let go to see the light.

The meaning of the Incarnation

God breathed His Spirit into the dust. He creatively manifested Himself in many wondrous forms and processes that we now experience as the unfolding Universe. We are among the beings He is manifesting. Through us, God has chosen to subject Himself to distortion, namely lack, limitation, and separation. God is choosing to experience these illusions through us. But the Good News is that God can choose to transcend these perceptions, shining the light of His glory and love into our hearts and revealing to us the truth that we are neither separate nor limited nor lacking. We are not alone. We are not helpless. We are not deficient in any way.

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.
— John 6:63

When we believe that we have problems or that we are helpless or alone, we are putting our faith in matter instead of Spirit. We are putting our faith in shadows and reflections instead of the Light. We may object: “But the world seems so real!” Of course it does. It was made for our senses; as far as we know, it exists only through our senses. We have no access to the world except through our experience. And what is that? It is the sum total of our perceptions. We are effectively trapped in the illusions of space and time, which are the dimensions we traverse to prove that we are not all connected, and that the past is gone and the future hasn’t arrived yet. But God has already called the entire creation good. From His perspective, it is finished. From our perspective, He isn’t done yet. That’s because He is not limited to the bounds of time except insofar as He chooses to experience His creation through us.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
— John 1:14

To incarnate is to dwell in a body. The message of the Incarnation is that bodies matter. Illusory or not, matter matters. When Jesus said “the flesh counts for nothing,” he was saying that it is not the source of our life; rather, “the Spirit gives life.” But just because it is not the Source does not mean it doesn’t matter. I have no desire to be “so heavenly minded that I’m no earthly good.” If anything, I want to be heavenly minded so that I can be of earthly good. If Love doesn’t manifest in feeding the hungry, helping the poor, and caring for the sick, it is not Love. Rather, it is only a “resounding gong and a clanging symbol.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) Love is about getting our hands dirty. Love is not about staying up in heaven but bringing it down to earth. That’s the message of the Incarnation, and we need look no further than the life of Jesus to see how it’s done. It is through our bodily, physical acts of selfless service that we communicate the spiritual truth to others. I see you. You are not alone. You are loved.


My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.
— Matthew 26:39

I and the Father are one.
— John 10:30

Jesus both prayed to and identified with his Father. Depending on the time or situation, he operated from a different level of consciousness. He spoke of himself from different perspectives. As the Son, he looked to his Father for guidance, comfort, and insight. As the Father, he looked with compassion on himself as Son, at times speaking directly through the Son:

Very truly I tell you, before Abraham was born, I am!
—John 8:58

The Pharisees recognized this as the name of God: I AM that I AM. It is the One who is always everywhere present. As the Creator behind everything we see and experience, God is the very ground of being, beyond space and time, infinite and eternal. And this is Who Jesus identified with! He yielded himself to this higher Intelligence and explained what he was doing to his followers:

The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.
—John 14:10

He was in essence accessing a part of himself—the part that always has been and always will be, the part that is impervious to the trials and tribulations of life, the part that sees things from an eternal perspective. This relationship and this identification are what enabled Jesus to do what he did: love people so profoundly, teach deep spiritual wisdom, perform miraculous healings, and, especially, offer up his bodily life as a sacrifice, willingly going to the Cross. He saw himself as more than just his body; otherwise, it wouldn’t make any sense (or do any good) to die. From this higher level of awareness, he knew that his death would not be his end.

We too can experience God as our Father/Mother and ourselves as His child. The Spirit that rested on Jesus (John 1:32-24) and enabled him to enter into this intimate relationship is promised to us as well:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and is in you.
—John 14:16-17

There is an implicit ambiguity, a seeming contradiction, in this promise—that the Spirit will be in us and that the Spirit is in us, forever. It’s a classic paradox. Stated another way, to be filled with the Spirit is to realize that you already are filled with the Spirit. It is to awaken to your identity as a child of God, to your heritage and your DNA. Jesus did not hoard this heritage or let it go to his head, although he was tempted to do so (Luke 4:5-7), just as we would have been. His resistance to that temptation allowed him to keep open that powerful channel of God’s Spirit, showing us what it means to live life as a Son or Daughter of God.

If we look within, embracing our true identity, we will find that the Father is there too, and so is the Son—”Christ in you, the hope of glory,” and so is the Spirit. Through prayer and meditation, we can get glimpses of the loving awareness that contains us and ultimately is us. Like the person in her car who suddenly realizes she’s not just stuck in traffic but that she is the traffic, one day we may realize who the Universe is.