This phrase of Tilden Edward’s has been spinning around inside of me for the past year. What does it mean? How can emptiness be fertile or productive? Doesn’t emptiness imply a nothingness, a lack of anything? And how can anything fertile be empty since the word “fertile” denotes fullness and fruitfulness? Surely “fertile emptiness” is impossible… or is it?
At some point during the last two decades of my life God has awakened me to a deeper life within: to a place where my ego doesn’t constantly need to keep holding on to a frenetic drive to achieve, to gain accolades and acclaim. Even now, in transition from full-time parish ministry to part-time ministry, I sense God’s invitation just to be: to be empty of the need to justify my own existence by accomplishment and productivity. I experience God’s drawing me into a kind of inner emptiness and I frequently resist. I fight “tooth and nail.” For who am I if I cannot define myself by goals, plans and achievement? Where will “I” go? Where, indeed, if not to God?
John the Baptist once said, “I must decrease that He (Jesus) may increase.” I sense God’s Spirit calling me into the emptiness of more “I-less” living. But what can grow in those rare moments of boundary-less, defense-less being? Who can grow in such a state? Who, if not God?
God’s love deepening within, strengthening for greater love…God’s compassion etching deeper into my awareness-teaching me the way of the Holy One-is more fulfilling than ego needs to be constantly achieving. God’s peace-deep within-assuring me that I can trust this holy invitation to be empty and open for God. And so I pray: Holy One, give to me and all who seek you the courage to be empty so that our sprits may be fertile ground for whatever You want to grow there. Amen.