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Life and faith in transition

Letting go feels like embracing emptiness
Letting go feels like embracing emptiness

What is your life becoming? The COVID pandemic and accompanying circumstances altered life for many of us. Is your life heading to a different place now than it was a few months ago?

It is June 25, 2020. I am sitting on the tiny balcony of my first real apartment, watching the sun set over Lookout Mountain. In my lap I hold the canvas for my next painting. But this canvas is not blank. It is an old, inexpensive, commercially produced print depicting a balloon floating away and the words, “Let it go.” I cover it in white primer. Then it hits me. This still mostly empty apartment I’ve just moved into and this freshly primed canvas are fitting metaphors. I have let a lot of things go. There is a lot of empty space in my apartment, on this canvas, in my life. I am transitioning into something new, but I don’t quite know what yet.

Deconstructing old models

Let it go canvas paintingIn my sophomore year of college leading up to the pandemic, my life was very full: full of people, loving relationships, murals, unexpected opportunities, and adventures. However, I found that they were somehow unsatisfying. They could not sustain me or fill me up. I had this constant feeling of emptiness even though my outward reality said otherwise. Whenever I went in to paint murals  late at night the empty feeling followed me into the building. Even as I filled blank walls with vibrant colors, deep down I was trying to paint my faded heart. I tried to fill the emptiness by accomplishing things and going places. 

College thus far had been a period of spiritual deconstruction. I turned away from the Christian beliefs that I was raised with, and sought out answers that I felt like the church couldn’t give. By the start of my sophomore year I identified as an agnostic, but was still not content with where I was with my spiritual life or the nagging unfulfillment. 

But then there was COVID-19 and suddenly there was no more accomplishing things or going places. Instead there was lots of letting go. A relationship ended. My creative projects got postponed. My classes went online. My summer work plans got canceled. Communities that I wanted to be a part of dissolved. And I had to move back home. 

Last week, I found out that someone I grew up with overdosed and died. Even though I wasn’t close to her, it disturbed me to see the pictures people were posting of us standing beside each other as little kids. It upset me partly because of how much I relate to her. I wonder if she was struggling with emptiness too. 

I wonder if God can speak to this emptiness.

Reconstruction

The challenge of deconstruction:

Trusting that God can fill the emptiness.

At home in the empty space of lockdown I began to develop a deeper love for my family, friends and even for myself. I used the blank time and space to examine my habits and negative thinking. Instead of racing around, trying to win the affection and approval of others I found that God doesn’t require me to earn love.

I think that God is using the emptiness: the loss of my dreams for my Junior year of college and the uncertainty of what comes next. I think that God brought good out of some pretty terrible circumstances. I believe God used it as an opportunity to help me pause, reflect, and start over. I think God saw the brokenness in my life and wanted to mend it; God saw the emptiness and wanted to fill it. Maybe what I’ve been needing all this time is to reconcile with God. 

Now it’s July 8th, and I am contemplating what I will paint on this freshly primed canvas. I am sketching my apartment building. Throughout all the lost dreams of what never came to be, this apartment was a gift from God. God gave me this space to put down new roots. It is a space where I can grow into who I was designed to be. I don’t know what my next step is going to be, but I have to remind myself even when it is hard, even when I don’t entirely believe it, there is a God out there who loves me, a God who made me in beautiful light, a God who wants me to pursue a life of passion, a God who wants me to grow strong on my own, but who is ever and always with me.


 

Madison Myers is a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.