Simone Weil wrote, “Grace fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it.” With those words she emphasized a spirituality which for the most part has been only a minority report in the church: The spirituality of weakness and emptiness. We all must become poor, in one way or another, to receive what God has to give.
Somewhere along the line we simply lost our Way, that being the Way of Jesus. He always taught and modeled an inverted power, personal capability turned on its head. He never used coercion, strong-arm tactics, or dirty ladder climbing to the top. Rather, he descended to the bottom choosing the way of sacrifice, service, and humility.
Yet, we who are Christian often march forth to clutch for power and accomplishments as quickly as all others. Our good old Protestant work ethic (Catholics work just as hard, by the way) with a strong dose of entrepreneurship drives us to amass everything from fortunes and followers to perfect attendance pins and pats-on-the-back. We can become so full of ourselves that there is no room left for anything else, not even the grace God longs to give.
Personal achievement should be rightly celebrated, but it cannot be forgotten that egotism, pride, and ambition are the real enemies of the gospel. Why? Because when our hands, heads, and hearts are full, we are simply unable to accept what God offers. “Grace fills empty spaces!” Or in the words of Leo Tolstoy, “Even the strongest current of water cannot add a drop to a cup which is already full.”
None of us will receive God’s good grace or experience genuine transformation so long as we remain full of ourselves. The gospel is completely unappealing—it is downright repulsive—to those of us who feel that we can manage our lives with our own abilities, resources, accomplishments, or on our own terms. As long as this self-reliance reigns supreme, the reign of God cannot take hold in our lives.
Emptiness is not curse; it is the cure. Insufficiency is not the end; it is the beginning. Admitting that our hands hold nothing is not a liability; it is receptivity. And when we acknowledge that we have nothing left, it is then we have found the most important thing of all: The capacity and space to accept grace when it is offered to us.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.com.