You have turned my mourning into dancing for me;
You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
~ Psalm 30:11 - 12
I walked outside this morning just in time to get a glimpse of the monarch that emerged from a chrysalis I had been watching over the last few weeks. In one moment I was glad to have had the chance to see it fly off, and in another, sad because it was no longer present. Just an empty chrysalis.
An empty cross. An empty tomb. There is something about our faith that draws us to understand what it means to encounter "emptiness."
I remember flying home after my stepmother had died. Walking into my parents' home and encountering emptiness, realizing that she was no longer going to be on the other side of the door when I opened it.
In the book of Isaiah, we are reminded "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." (Isaiah 43:2), but when we encounter emptiness, it is just sometimes difficult to remember this promise.
Yesterday while spending time with one of my patients who is actively dying, his wife shared with me, "I know that it is time to let him go, but I have to wonder what life will be like without him being present."
There are going to be these moments and milestones in our lives. When I think about emptiness, I have to wonder how many times the Disciples passed the empty tomb and took "one more look," just to see if Jesus would happen to appear again after his ascension? Or the times that Jesus' mother, Mary, looked up to the hillside, and thought of the cross that was now empty?
While so much of what I try to convey each day is a message of encouragement in my blog, being able to talk about these moments allows for us to define when we are encountering the mountain top, as well as, the valley. It is both normal, and expected in our life to have times when we focus more on what is no longer present, than what still remains. Grief, in itself, is both personal and an uncharted territory for many. It can overcome us when we least expect it. In a moment where we are looking in anticipation, only to recognize that the moment has passed, and nothing can be done.
Mourning turns into dancing (from Psalm 30), but for many, the emptiness has also taken away our breath, the memory of dance steps, or the familiar melody of the tune. Emptiness is real.
While I understand that the empty chrysalis is a significant sign that life has emerged into something else, I am glad for the chapter that existed. For the time I spent waiting and watching. But most of all, for having had the experience of knowing the fullness of the journey.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
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Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.