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Tuesday, October 27, 2020 4:10 PM

When Life Is One Big Empty Vastness of Nothingness - How to Connect the Disconnect

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 4:10 PM
Tuesday, October 27, 2020 4:10 PM

Let me be real transparent in hopes that it blesses someone.

My depression and sadness had been so deep and I could find relief nowhere. My internist suggested meds or a counselor. Neither were for me. Only when I stopped playing, stopped pretending, stopped playing with God, other people, and myself; and admitted to God that I was truly and hopelessly lost, did I find my way out of the depression. And I'm not talking about ten or twenty years ago, I'm talking this year.

Not that I was ever "playing," per se because I am sincerely Christian. What I learned through this whole COVID-19 crisis is that I’d been a sincere Christian, just not a sincere Christ-follower. And therein was the difference. The disconnect. The dichotomy was the source of my years-long depression.

There is legitimate clinical depression but sometimes it’s not clinical, but spiritual. Such was the case with me.

I have been a member of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, for 30 plus years, sitting under, in my mind, the best expository Bible teacher on the planet - Tony Evans.

I am a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, one of the most well-regarded seminaries in the world. Conservative. Evangelical. A seminary that has graduated the likes of Priscilla Shirer, Andy Stanley, Tony Evans, David Jeremiah, and other well-known pastors and Bible teachers.

I’ve served in elective office, founded and lead a Christian organization. But I had this big, empty place inside. And nothing could fill it. I don't know how many times I confessed my sins, laid on the floor begging God to show me what I was doing wrong.

I would have sincere conversations with my husband who knows me better than anyone and would ask him, “honey, you know me, you’re with me 24/7, have been with me practically all our lives, what do you see that I can’t see? What am I missing? What am I doing wrong?” He could only comfort me. He had no answers.

As a wordsmith, finding descriptive words or explanatory words have always come easily for me. But there was nothing in my vocabulary or cache of phrases that could describe the depth of longing, loneliness, and emptiness. When I tried to put words to my feelings they would get sucked down that empty, black sinkhole that had for years consumed me on the inside. Sometimes, I too would get lost in the vastness of its nothingness.

A vast nothingness is how I could best describe it — an emptiness I had learned to hide well behind my ability to communicate well. On the outside, I appeared strong, bold, and smart. But within the wasteland of nothingness, I was not bold and smart but small and numb.

No amount of success, no amount of accolades could fill the void. Nothing could. In the quietness of the morning, I would talk to God, read His word, meditate, sing, praise, pray —- all the things I knew I was supposed to do. All the things I had learned to do. All the things I was teaching others to do.

I had learned in seminary how to research, write, and deliver great messages. I learned how to make the Bible come alive in real-time, and how to help others apply its timeless principles to help resolve issues and problems to bring hope and encouragement.

I could teach it, others would receive it, I just couldn’t receive it myself. Though my receptors were always up in the wee hours of the morning as I read scripture and prayed, there was static somewhere on the line because no matter how hard I prayed, how much I read, how much I talked to God the emptiness gripped my very soul. The sinkhole would invariably swallow me up as it did everything I had talked to God about only hours or if I were really blessed, days before.

But whether hours or days, the euphoria of spending time with Him and reading his word and praying was always short-lived. I would fast for days, sometimes weeks. It worked for a while but like everything else, the hopefulness from it all would invariably fade.

What dear God was I doing wrong? It seemed not even God himself was listening - worse, didn’t care. And as much as my husband loves me, all he could do was listen, pray with me, for me and support me. All the while I was boldly teaching and speaking and writing things I knew to be true - they just weren’t my reality.

Only when the COVID-19 crisis hit, church doors closed and travel halted was I forced, like many Americans to stay home, work from home, worship from home, and shop from home did I finally find the answer. The answer to emptiness, the answer to the vast sinkhole in my spirit.

But it was only after going through a crisis in the midst of a crisis that I did not see coming (do we ever?) that I was forced to take real inventory and take time to truly and completely listen to God. Prayer time was usually me doing all the talking. I had to close my mouth and be still long enough to listen. Not just one day but over several days.

I am the author of the book, “Why We Fall: The Power of Self- Awareness.” And in one of the chapters, I challenge readers to take a self-inventory. Take themselves to lunch and have a serious talk with self. A lot of times the answers we seek are already inside. Placed there by omniscient God who knows all things. We did not create ourselves, nor did our birth parents. They were merely conduits. God created us all and knows intimately, each of us; down to the minute detail. He knows how he wired us and how he put us together to fit perfectly the purpose for which he gave us life.

Everything we will ever need in life, God placed inside of us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. Just as inside every acorn is an oak tree and inside every apple seed, an apple tree.

So, what am I saying and what does all this have to do with the vacuum that had for years consumed and sucked the life out of me?

Forced to re-evaluate, forced to sit down with self, I discovered the one thing I had been searching for and the answer to the question for which I could find no answer.

I had an identity crisis. A lifelong identity crisis. I’ve known my name. I’ve known what I do. I’ve known theologically who I am. But the disconnect was that I had strongholds that prevented the connection which would allow me to internalize what I knew to be true. The strongholds were the static on the line!

God had to first deal with the strongholds that had taken hold in my mind that had prevented the connection with my spirit with his spirit that would allow me to internalize in my spirit what I knew in my head to be true!

I am fearfully and wonderfully made (so are we all) in the image and likeness of God. I had to say that out loud, several times for it to sink in!

To really know me, I had to know Him. But strongholds had caused a disconnect. I knew him theologically better than I knew him experientially and personally. But wait a minute. Didn’t I already? After all, I have been in church all of my life, a graduate of seminary — the whole shebang.

I had known happiness based on the external but not joy, peace, and contentment that can only come from the internal and most important, the eternal. Because deep within was a stronghold that had opened up over time a deep and dark hole that only God’s spirit could dive deep enough to seal from the bottom up and at the same time tear down the stronghold that had spawned other strongholds!

Happiness can be found externally. If we get a new car, we’re happy. A new job, we’re happy. Seeing people and relatives we haven’t seen in awhile - we’re happy. Promotion on the job - we’re happy. But what was missing inside of me, and had long been missing was the joy of knowing who I really am, the peace of God regardless of circumstances, and genuine contentment regardless of what I had or didn’t have. Intimate knowledge.

The intimate knowledge that can only be gained not from just a relationship, but an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. More intimate than with my husband. Intimacy leads to identity which leads to joy, peace, and contentment. Life. What is life short of these? Just a vast emptiness of nothingness!

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that he is the living water and whoever drinks of him would never thirst again. Whoever finds him finds life. He is life.

God had to first deal with the strongholds that had taken hold in my mind that had prevented the connection with my spirit with his spirit that would allow me to internalize in my spirit what I knew in my head to be true!

Nothing can bring about joy but knowing who we are in Christ - and that was the key for me. I knew who I was because of Christ but I didn’t know who I am in Christ. And that was the difference. And that has made all the difference!

I could go deeper and cite Bible verses and if this were a teaching exercise, I would. But it’s just Saturday morning musings and I wanted to put down on paper thoughts that could perhaps help others in words that I could finally articulate.

When we find who we are in Christ, we find who we are, period. We find our identity and the identity fills the sinkhole in our existence.

Like many, my identity had long been tied to what I did or didn’t do. And when I didn’t measure up professionally, in my mind, I didn’t measure up at all and the hole inside got deeper. The perceived not measuring up, had conceived a stronghold.

Don’t wrap who you are in what you do. I used to say that, but now it is my experience, not just an academic exercise or something to say to sound smart! It’s nothing we can do that will have a more lasting impact on the inside than what Jesus did outside on the cross over 2,000 years ago. And it’s still good today.

Jesus died so that we could be free and full not bound and empty. Like they say where I come from, “ain’t that good news?”

So through this COVID-19 crisis, I stopped playing, stopped talking, and listened. I listened to the echo of that still small voice deep down in that black hole of nothingness, telling me I mattered to God. Telling me that I had nothing to prove to God. Telling me that I am good enough, smart enough, and just enough.

No matter what I achieve or don’t achieve, it’s what Jesus achieved on my behalf. Nothing can change one iota who I am nor how God views me. He sent you and me here whole, with everything inside we would need to become what he purposed us to become once we discovered who we are in him.

Many have always considered me bold. I suppose I was. But now, more than boldness is courage. Any bully or anybody can be bold. And oftentimes it is the one most empty on the inside who appears on the outside to be the boldest. We can talk ourselves into being bold, but courage can only come from God. And can only come by way of intimately knowing who we truly are in Christ.

I thank God for the peace through His presence that now fills that once dark and deep sinkhole. I’m no longer sinking, but living in the newness of who I am in Christ. And what a feeling it is!

I thank him that I am no longer a bold woman, but a courageous one in Him. He told Joshua to be courageous, not bold. I now know why. Boldness is based on the brashness of our own strength, rooted in what we do or know.

Courage, on the other hand, is based on the simple truth of knowing who we truly are - without pretense, in Christ.

We can fool some of the people some of the time but we can fool ourselves none of the time. Maybe it’s time you too have that talk with self.

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