The Empty Room
January 9, 2016 | Reflections from some of the nunsWords from The Heart
I had to clean a floor in an empty room at the Abbey a couple of months ago. The room is at one end of the building and since it was work time, no one was within co-ee. The rest of the nuns were all working in silence at the other end of the monastic complex and I had the place to myself. That being the case, I used the opportunity, as I was scrubbing away, to sing my favourite hymn. I was amazed to tell you the truth, because, even to my sometimes tone deaf ear, my voice in the empty room really sounded alright!! It echoed and resonated magnificently and encouraged by the sound of my own voice I launched into more than one of my favourites. It was a very happy time and I was sorry when the floor was finished. Try it yourself one day; you will see what I mean!
It occurred to me that sometimes you and I are afraid of our emptiness. We can think our strength lies in fullness, in having a head full of good ideas and correct answers. We bemoan our emptiness; we see it as a huge shortcoming; and we shudder quietly at the emptiness that loneliness brings about in us; we recoil from our incapacities of whatever sort and our inability to rise to the various challenges that come our way, especially those challenges of the heart. We are so often ashamed of our apparent emptiness, we wish we had more to give and we are sure that if we were truly 'together people', we would be full of all manner of good things, we would always know which way to go and we would have the certainty of knowing that we had made some sort of progress through life. We can end up feeling as though we are failures and we are sure God thinks so too.
Yet the truth is our emptiness makes our true voice even more beautiful and welcoming to the heart of God. It makes for a song like no other. In our emptiness God can truly hear who we are and where we have been. He can hear what genre has influenced us, and from the way we sing He can also hear that which is troubling us. He can truly hear the hidden nuances of our difference and shame and everything else that makes us who we are. That same emptiness has a remarkable influence on our listening powers as well. It is just possible to hear God in a whole new way, as though His Voice too, is clearer and more resonant in our own heart. As well, we can begin to hear and see ourselves as God does, and truly our mutual song in our emptiness is beautiful. Our emptiness is a blessing not a curse.
I have a suggestion for you.
Why not take a moment of quiet somewhere, close your eyes, see yourself in an empty room and tell God about your emptiness.
Sit very quietly and just be empty before God. Don't try to think of anything. Open your hands before God and just sit there until you feel moved to leave that space.
Sr Hilda Scott osb