Monday, June 6, 2011

You Can't Fill an Already Full Container

I beg of you, Lord –
empty me.
Empty me of my pride and wisdom.
Pour out the arrogance
of my human understanding
and intuition.
Empty me of me, Jesus.
Empty me.
Empty me of the rancid sinfulness
that permeates the well of my existence.
Of my greed and self-centeredness,
of my selfish desires,
empty me.
Spill out my plans, my will, and my way.
Strip my intentions,
my perspective.
Empty me Lord God.
Empty me.

This past week, I wrote the above poem as a sinner’s offering. This prayer came from the heart of a Christian who, once again, was trying to do too much on her own without the guidance of God’s Word and without relying on the Holy Spirit’s great power and blessing. Too often, I find myself falling into this trap of self-reliance and pushing God’s joy and peace, his very Spirit, out of my life because I’m too full of my own abilities, wisdom, and desires to make room for the blessings God has prepared for me and which he desires to fill me with until it overflows to those around me. I’m not saying that I have abandoned my faith. I've slipped into a kind of lukewarm relationship with God. I know this is a common struggle which is why I must confess it so boldly and freely.

Oh, I still pray and read a verse or two of scripture daily, but not to receive God’s Holy Word. Rather I glance at it as a kind of affirmation or encouragement for the day. In prayer, I thank the Lord for the many blessings he has lavished on me, but more out of courtesy or ritual than out of genuine gratitude. Mostly, I spend too much time talking at God and not enough time listening to God.

This is not the first time this has happened and I would be foolish to believe that it’s the last. It’s kind of a cycle with me. I’m on track and diligently seeking God in his Word, sincerely seeking his presence and his will in prayer for a time and then things get crazy at work or in my personal life or both and I am pulled in several different directions. Something has got to give – and usually it’s my Bible study first and then my quiet time with God. I always think it’s only for a little while and then that “little while” turns into weeks or months. Before I know it, I am feeling distant from God and lonely for his presence. This past week, as I turned to God in prayer asking him to fill me with his joy and peace, his blessing, and his presence, I heard in my spirit, “I cannot fill the places where you are already full of yourself.” As I contemplated that thought, I pictured pouring spring water into a pitcher already full of old rancid lemonade and seeing it overflow - the contaminated lemonade and pure water mingled together. I couldn't pour enough water into the pitcher to completely remove the stench of the rotten lemonade. I was moved to write the poem above as a prayer asking God to empty me - the first necessary step to being filled and overflowing with his blessings.

I think we all fall into the trap of being too full of ourselves, too sure of our abilities and wisdom, to busy to seek God's guidance sometimes. The important thing to remember is that God has the power and desires to empty us of our limitations and then fill us with his infinite blessings.

About the pictures:
Parkwood Presbyterian Prayer Garden (May 2011)

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