The Shape of My Emptiness

God speaks to me in images a lot.

And last October, when I finally realized the new thing God was doing inside of me to answer my prayer for hiddenness, an image began to accompany me through the journey.

It was the image of a curvy-shaped, ruby-red piece of glassware. Have you ever seen those art deco glasses from the 1970s? The ones that are heavy to hold and dark-colored but see-through, often blue or dark red in color?

That's what the image was like. It was ruby-red, and it looked like this:

The shape of my emptiness, part 1

Drawn December 12, 2010

At the time, I recognized that this was the shape of my soul in which God was currently forming me. It felt like the visual representation of my inward reality. In the bulbous center, God and I communed often together, but there was plenty of room and opportunity for me to go into the upper tier of the glass. That upper tier represented my daily, ordinary life -- the aspects of life where I interact in the world and with others.

It seemed as though the outward-facing lip of the glass was the means by which God poured more of himself into me and by which I was poured out for others.

It was so interesting to notice this image accompanying me in my journey toward hiddenness and emptying of self and then, shortly afterward, to begin reading The Reed of God, a book of meditations on the life of Mary. The first chapter, appropriately titled "Emptiness," offered these words for reflection:

That virginal quality which, for want of a better word, I call emptiness is the beginning of this contemplation. It is not a formless emptiness, a void without meaning; on the contrary it has a shape, a form given to it by the purpose for which it is intended. . . . At the beginning it will be necessary for each individual to . . . see ourselves as if we had just come from God's hand and had gathered nothing to ourselves yet, to discover just what shape is the virginal emptiness of our own being, and of what material we are made.

-- The Reed of God, pp. 21, 23-24

It was such an encouragement (not to mention amazingly uncanny) to discover someone else talking about the shape of our emptiness after having just walked around for several weeks with a distinct impression that this red glass image I was carrying around was the shape of my inner reality of learning to become hidden and emptied of self.

This image stayed with me about four months.

Then, during a session with my spiritual director in February, I realized the image had changed. (Surprise!) It was no longer an art-deco, dark-red glass with a curvy shape.

It was a golden chalice.

The shape of my emptiness, part 2

Drawn February 13, 2011

I didn't notice it was a chalice at first. I noticed only that it was, first of all, smaller than the red glass. Simpler in shape. And, most amazing of all, stunningly golden.

Then I noticed a small amount of sweet wine in the bottom of the cup . . . and inside that wine, swirling around together, were me and God. We were commingling in ecstatic union, and it was amazing and beautiful and I couldn't stop smiling. And that's when, slowly, I realized:

This is what communion means.

That's the point at which I consciously realized my shaped had changed into that of a chalice.

I'm not sure what caused God to change the shape of my emptiness, why it changed from an art-deco red glass into this golden, brilliant chalice suited only for pure communion . . . but he did.

And that simplicity of communion led, eventually, to the next image God offered me, which I will share about in my next post. Stay tuned.