Jesus fills in the blank space

By Julianne Stanz | Special To The Compass | October 10, 2019

Recently, I was filling out paperwork for my children’s school. In the instructions, I was directed to fill in all the blank spaces and return the form to school. The blank space allows us to decide the answer that best fits us and our situation. That same week, as I was organizing greeting cards, I found a large group of loose cards that was more generic in greeting that said  “fill in the blank” on the back. I grouped them together and set them aside, knowing that I could customize the “blank” depending on the occasion. It seems that through the years we spend a lot of time filling in the blank on all kinds of things — on forms, cards, letters and in emails.

But the same can be said of our faith lives.

St. Augustine tells us that “you have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” This interior restlessness opens up a blank or absent space in our lives that we decide what to fill it with. Each one of us answers this restlessness and fills our “blank space” differently.

For some of us, we run from this blank space and push the concept of God and having a relationship with Jesus out of our lives. We busy ourselves with people, projects and tasks to distract ourselves. For others, we drown in this space or fuel the pain in ways that are not good for us. We fill this space in our hearts with too much food, alcohol, drugs or experiences as we seek to fill up this empty space. We deny the pain and put a brave face on, but inside we are drowning in doubts, fear and anxiety. How much of our lives are concerned with filling in the blank space in ways that are not good for us?

It might take us years to understand or it can happen in an instant, but there is a time when we come to the realization that only God can fill this blank space for us. But God will only do this if we ask him to take these empty places and fill them up to be spaces of hope, mercy, love and joy; to be a space filled with God and what he wants instead of a place filled with ourselves and what we want. God knocks at the door of our hearts and we act as the gatekeeper of our own pain and blank spaces to let him in to fill us up.

Many artists have tried to represent this concept in different ways — through music, story, dance and art. The painting, “Light of the World,” by the English artist William Hunt, represents Jesus preparing to knock on a door overgrown with weeds and brambles as if it had not been opened in some time. The artist painted the image with the Scripture from Revelation 3:20 in mind: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Only we can open the door. Jesus will not push it open without our permission out of deep love and care for us.

Ultimately, it is in the cross that we find the answer to the gaping empty hole in our heart. God sends us his only beloved Son to redeem and transform us, and on the cross we find his arms outstretched in love for each one of us. Arms stretched wide open to receive the offender and the offended, the hopeful and the hopeless, the broken and the blessed.

“Where there is no love, put love and you will find love,” St. John of the Cross tells us. In emptying himself out for us, Jesus takes all of our empty places and fills them God’s love. What once was a blank space is no longer empty, as we are filled with Jesus’ love for us and for others.

Stanz is director of Parish Life and Evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay. Her new book, “Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church,” is now available from Loyola Press.

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