Data Dump: Letting Myself Be (Empty)

A photo by Crew. unsplash.com/photos/rCOWMC8qf8A

Good morning friends!

I apologize for having somewhat of an irregular blog-posting schedule. I’m going to try to get back to weekly Tuesdays, eventually…

Recently, I purchased an Apple Watch. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, and I must say, I do adore this little piece of technology. I love that it monitors my heart rate and my activity levels, and most importantly, it pulses at me each hour to remind me to stand up from my desk and walk around (I am terrible at this, especially when I’m really focused at work).

I love data and all things related to tracking. I blame my type A, engineer personality. But I am also a contemplative, or at least I strive to be. As I reflect on my data-obsession, I can’t help but to ask myself, why is it that I am drawn to “tracking” my health so closely?

The obvious answer is that I’m afraid of having debilitating [hemiplegic] migraines (i.e. losing my ability to talk and/or see) at inconvenient moments. There is nothing (in my life) more terrifying than being surrounded by people, unable to speak your own name. This causes me to have a lot of anxiety, every single day. Add that on top of having anxiety in general (usually about nothing). A friend of mine sent me this photo, so true:


It seems like just when I “get to the bottom” of my crazy, there is a whole undisturbed ocean of crazy waiting to bubble up from the depths. You see, I like to be able to point to a specific thing and say, “Oh that’s the reason I’ve been feeling like (insert uncomfortable feeling here).” It allows me to rest assured that I am completely OK in all other facets of life — just biologically or chemically, something is off and that is what is throwing me off.

That statement is true, and it is untrue.

I’m not discounting the reality that the human brain is the least understood organ (or so I read somewhere) in our bodies and that there are real chemical imbalances that do cause all sorts of unwanted symptoms or behaviors.

However, I’ve come to the realization that there is something not quite wholesome about blaming all of my unrest on health issues.

Micro-managing my health has become a way for me to unload the responsibility of feeling the uncomfortable for what it is – blaming it on the fact that there is something “biologically” wrong with me. We’ve all heard, “nobody is perfect”, but in addition to that, I have not met one person that was biologically perfect either. It seems everyone I know is fighting an unseen battle of some sort. And it does wear on us. It wears on us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s not just difficult to pour from an empty cup, it’s especially hard to pour from a cup that also seems to be cracked or damaged.

So we’re all cracked, damaged, and empty? Where’s the encouragement? What’s the good news?

The good news is, God can use empty and damaged cups.

He can use us when we are broken, when we feel weak. He can transform our brokenness into wholeness, He can turn our weaknesses into strengths.

Some of the most powerful conversations I’ve had with others weren’t necessarily with words. They were a moment, a meaningful look exchanged between us. A look that seems to resonate at my very core that says, “I’m hurting.” and their response: “I know.” I felt our souls connect. Even though I have wished and ached to go back and change the past, that certain events wouldn’t have transpired, that I wouldn’t have said that thing, that the person I love didn’t pass away… but then in those moments when my soul touches another, I see the darkness turned to light. I see the silver lining I didn’t think possible.

Sometimes I feel myself questioning, especially in moments of deep seeded anxiety, like the woman at the well:

She said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?”
~John 4:11 NASB

My thoughts look something like this:

God, I have nothing. I have no coping strategies for this, I have no money, I have no job security, I have no spouse, I have no family near, I have no friends, I have no …. How can I possibly feel Your presence? How can I possibly dig deep to even give a simple smile to the person next to me?

Sometimes it feels hopeless. Sometimes I give in to despair. Sometimes I have no encouragement for myself, how can I encourage others?

God reminds me of His promises.

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.

~ Jeremiah 29:11

I reflect on the darkness of my past, and I see how my life has been transformed, how I have been surprised that I always ended up where I needed to be, and most importantly: that I was never alone. I wrote a post about suffering in silence once, and what I learned from that experience was that even though every part of me wants to avoid suffering like the devil, a part of me is surprised to find that I desire it. I desire to be close to other humans and to share in their suffering. It is my deepest desire to lighten their load, so to speak. I don’t know that I would have developed empathy or self-awareness any other way than by going through the tough times that I did. Even when I was far away from the church, not even sure God existed, I have felt His presence lifting me up when I felt unable. I did nothing to deserve that kind of unconditional love. That’s how I want to love others, with a love so deep, so unbounded, so radical that they can never repay me, except by love.

Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
    for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.

~ Psalm 143:8

So when I find myself in moments of terror and anxiety… Instead of Googling or WebMDing what could be wrong with me, I try to relax. I close my eyes, and settle in to the fear and discomfort of my own emotional or spiritual unrest, my own anxieties. I notice, observe, and let the feelings wash over me and pass on, to find some other vessel to fill, because I am keeping my vessel empty, so that He can fill me up.

Do you have any silver lining moments to share? Where do you draw your encouragement in times of fear, anxiety, or depression? Leave your comments below, you never know who you may be helping by sharing your story. <3

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  1. Lianne says:

    Another great post, Arie! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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