Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind….
Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
(Jackson Brown, Running On Empty)
Thus says the Lord:
What fault did your fathers find in me
that they withdrew from me,
Went after emptiness,
and became empty themselves?
(Jeremiah The Prophet, Jeremiah 2:5)
I just completed another cycle around the sun! Another uptick to my age has occurred. A time to ponder indeed.
In my crazy role (calling) as missionary/counselor/pastoral caregiver/teacher I have the sacred privilege of being invited into the lives and hearts of many, both here and overseas. My observation is that we all seem to live somewhere within the tension of being amazingly resilient and incredibly fragile. The longer I live the more I become aware that we are some strange combination of both. The good news is that the Lord is with us in all of life’s phases.
In recent days the Jeremiah 2:5 verse has had a grip on my heart. I personally hear no anger in that statement. In fact, I hear the voice of a Lover expressing His heart for His wayward bride. I hear heartfelt concern for the state of His beloved. The verse is presented in the form of a question. We know that there is no wisdom or knowledge outside of the Lord. He is omniscient, so therefore the question is for us to ponder. The words of the verse reveal a withdrawing from the Lord and a going after that which ultimately is empty; that which has no substance. The result is emptiness, hollowness and living without ballast.
My general observation is that there are many of us “believers” who are “running on empty’. Why is that? I think the answer is multifaceted and very individualized. But two come to mind. The first is disappointment.
Timothy Keller in his insightful little book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (catchy title eh?) says that we often walk around with painful egos. The word “ego” here simply means our self-awareness, our sense of or our perception of self. Keller goes on to say our egos are often empty, like a bloated stomach it is painful and the ego is incredibly busy. Serious disappointment is a painful punch to the ego, one that often causes us to withdraw from the Lord.
The second reason I believe is we are subtly seduced into the world system. The world system two-part drum beat is that full life is found in acquisition and achievement. The world system says that fullness of life and significance is found in what you acquire (money, material goods, toys, entertainment) or what you achieve (status, power, position, youthfulness, admiration, acceptance).
“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all. (Jeremiah 2:13)
Here we see the same thought. The Lover of our soul is saying that we have abandoned Him, the place where LIFE is tasted, imbibed and experienced, for our own idea of what satisfies, but in reality leaves us parched and vacant.
So what are the cisterns we’ve built, the empty lovers we’ve chased? I have no list to offer, but in simple terms it is what we have tried to gain worth and value, purpose or passion from apart from the Life Giver Himself. It may very well be a good thing that we pursue, but a “thing” that was never created to sustain the full weight of our lives. It may be a bad thing, where we find some visceral thrill playing tag in the shadows with something that will ultimately drain life away.
Henri Nouwen said “the world can help us survive, maybe even survive for a very long time. But it can never help us LIVE because the world has no LIFE in it!”
The Good News? The offer of Life, heart quenching, soul restoring Living-Water-Life, brimming and radiant with fullness is never withdrawn! Let’s drink deeply.