"We become aware of the void as we fill it." - Antonio Porchia
The times in our lives when we have had something taken away from us are often the most difficult. This could be the loss of a thing (real or imagined), a person or relationship, a dream, an opportunity - the list goes on.
Each time I lose something, I am always surprised by the physical pain that the loss inflicts. The person, or relationship, or thing, or hope has mass - mass which holds up my ribs and the walls of my chest. Mass which keeps my lungs affixed and holds my heart in place. I know these things have mass because when they are gone, the void they leave behind - that emptiness - hurts. It is like the removal of an organ; the neighboring tissues lose their surety. The sudden trauma radiates outward. It is hard to breathe.
I was struck by this pastel shoreline of so much emptiness. But this is what emptiness reminds me: it is a physical realization not only of what we love and why, but of how we must grow, with or without it. I have learned (rather reluctantly) that recognizing what can be the value of that emptiness and then working to fill that void are two wonderful gifts that can propel me forward (if only I will embrace it!).
A shell that is abandoned will either be inhabited by new life, filled with ocean water, or washed over with sand until every particle is so tightly packed you don't feel it beneath your feet. A well you dig in the sand will soon be filled with the tide. Even particles move in to fill the spaces where stars explode or collapse. Looking at it this way, no void truly exists.
So when I feel the pain of emptiness, I ask God to fill it, and I am always amazed at what He provides. Sometimes it is an exciting new idea which gives me energy and clarity. Other times it is a friend, offering support in unexpected ways. Other times it is simply a quiet assurance that I don't normally have in an anxious time.
What fills the void is not always the same thing or shape as my original loss, and so, I still feel a lingering pain. But the discomfort changes: my perspective shifts, my energy and creativity are redirected, ever so slightly, onto new trajectories, and my friendships and faith develop a richer hue than they had before.
The question, then, has become not "Why does this loss, this emptiness, have to happen to me?" but rather, "How can I fill the void when the emptiness comes?" It will come, and it will come often. But it doesn't have to be so painful. It can be a blessing, in fact, if we just let it.