Posted by: graceunbound | April 3, 2008

Empty places

The conversation goes something like this:

Me: (shamefacedly holding out a bag of trail mix that is now about two-thirds empty) “Um, I got you this to snack on for the trip this weekend, but…well…you know, it’s been a rough week with J getting detention and me getting all up in the principal’s face and everything, so…”

Husband: (shaking his head and smiling so it removes the sting from the words even if the truth remains) “Didn’t you learn anything after the Easter candy? Didn’t you learn not to buy that stuff too early?”

No, no, clearly I didn’t, OK? I didn’t learn my lesson, even after having to replace the Easter Candy three times. I didn’t learn it after Valentine’s Day when I realized that J is now old enough to notice that candy is missing from the stash he received at school. I really do ok most of the time, I do this by having almost no palatable food in the house at any time that does not require several hours of preparation prior to consumption. I proudly proclaim myself a food purist, shunning fast food, high fructose corn syrup and scary food dyes. But let a holiday or a special occasion hit and I am shameless.

No, that’s not right. I am not shameless because emotional eating carries its own shame with it. The shame that says, “I should know better, I should do better, I am weak, I am not in control.” Anyone who has struggled with emotional eating knows the drill, the roaming through the house flinging open cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, certain that somewhere there is something that can be eaten, something to fill that feeling that we can’t even identify. And even as we fling open the cupboard we slam shut the door to our heart, to the voice that is calling us to just be still for a moment.

Being still isn’t easy. I am learning that the hard way this year. After years of stifling the inner voice by immersing myself in work, in books, and on the internet, I came to a screeching halt when I decided to quit my full time job to stay home with my boys. No, they don’t allow a lot of time for literally sitting still, but suddenly my mind became still. I couldn’t hide behind busying it with work, my protection was stripped away. Suddenly the empty places became obvious.

We all have empty places in our hearts and our lives, places that we don’t know how to fill. And for every woman with an empty place there is a different way of trying to fill it. Some of us even rush desperately from method to method, trying to find the one that works. In high school I tried to fill them with packages of Oreos, hidden under the covers of my bed as I hid from the world inside the fantasy world of books. In college I thought I could fill them by just reaching that magical weight, but the empty places couldn’t be filled by the steadily decreasing numbers on the scale. Most athletic, perfect mother, perfect employee. Nothing filled them.

I still have empty places. But slowly I am learning to be still, to quiet the frantic rush of my heart, to hear grace calling “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NIV) Psalm 46 is a reminder to us, a reminder that God is our refuge and strength, not all the foolish things we try to surround ourselves with and fill ourselves with.

 God is our refuge and strength,

an ever-present help in trouble.

 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way

and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

 though its waters roar and foam

and the mountains quake with their surging.

 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

 God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

 The Lord Almighty is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 Come and see the works of the Lord,

the desolations he has brought on the earth.

 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,

he burns the shields with fire.

 “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

 The Lord Almighty is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Take time. Be still. Let grace begin to move.

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