Hollower than the God-Shaped Space

My sincere apologies, dear Reader, for the radio silence.  Between travel, finals, my car breaking down, grading, interviews, meetings upon meetings about meetings, and all the other bits which delight in banding together at the end of term, I simply didn’t get to this last week.  I hope you’ll forgive the lapse.

The semester has officially ended here in the land of Pilgrims.  I’ve passed my classes, only failed a quarter of my students, and set (mostly) in place all plans and employment for the fall—my last year in this degree.  The summer yawns before me in a shimmering heat wave of uncertainty and tentatively-hoped-for possibility.

But each end of term comes at a price.  We graduate students, fools that we are, live our semesters flat-out, eating little and sleeping less, inhaling information at the cost of our selves—and we pay dearly for it.  Some have nervous breakdowns, some leave for the hinterlands to regain the semblance of a soul; I (sometimes intentionally, sometimes less so) do a hard reset, much like a computer.  This term, that manifested in my being rather violently ill for a day and sleeping some 16 or 17 hours the next—an unheard-of quantity for me.  I am still recovering from this enforced infirmity, when I could no longer ignore my body’s need to slow, to rest, to be still.  I imagine full recovery will take some weeks, considering how foolishly I still push against those limits, trying to run at full speed as soon I have the strength to walk through the living room.

And in this period of having to see my own limits of being, it is more than my body that I have run to an ending point.  My mind is tired, as you might imagine, but so is my soul.  That’s new; not that I don’t recognize that the past term (the past several terms) have been incredibly spiritually exhausting, but I never thought about the idea that you can somehow get to the end of that strength.  Just as I have to let my mind and body rest now, to recharge, I feel as though I need to slow and let my spirit do the same.  I feel hollow in a way I don’t recognize other than in comparison with the long-ago days of marching band camp, when a 12-hour rehearsal would end and I would drive home to sit in the car and stare at the dashboard in sheer exhaustion.  It is a place of absence, of being so far beyond tired that there is only space and no words.

There is much going on of note this week, Reader—my denomination’s conference is deciding incredibly weighty matters, I earned one job but lost another, and I have a somewhat mysterious meeting with Interpreter later this afternoon, for starters—but it passes me by in the swirling eddies of a week I’ve not the energy to mark.  The part of me that is so independent, so active, rebels at this, seeks an answer to fix this problem, to make it better in some way that will fill the hollowness, searches for the God shape which I must surely be lacking to be this way.

And yet…yet, underneath that, I wonder if this is not also a place to be.  Sometimes, we are told to be still.  We are told to listen, and even if we’re not actively listening, we are allowing ourselves to be rebuilt.  I pushed way too hard this semester, and I am paying for it in so very many ways.  But is it not just as foolish to pretend that the need to regenerate isn’t real as it is to try and outrun the wounds that require such regeneration in the first place?   Is not this quietness also a part of the spiritual journey?  It isn’t brokenness to admit the need to take time apart, to admit that I can’t keep all the threads of my world together all the time.  It is only brokenness if I refuse to admit that I am somehow strong enough to bypass this requirement of being human.

I ask for your prayers, Reader, that I may accept this valley as much as I accept the mountaintops, and that I may learn to stand still and allow my spirit to heal.  If you’ve been here before, I pray that you made it to the other side; if you are here with me, I pray that we might walk together with the One who lights the darkness, heals the broken, and speaks quietly to those of us whose bruised ears have heard so much noise of late.


“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”   (Matthew 11:28, CEB)

2 thoughts on “Hollower than the God-Shaped Space

  1. Ron Johnson says:

    Dear Christiana,

    I know what you mean about that hollow feeling at the end of a school year. I don’t have it anymore, for a few reasons: (1) Because being a professor is not nearly as exhausting as being a professor (or at least it isn’t for me); (2) Because I usually teach year-round now; and (3) Because my day job is also year-round, and that kind of schedule places its own demands. But I’m impressed that you can write so eloquently about the experience while you’re going through it. You definitely are in my prayers, and I hope the noise subsides a little for you this summer.



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