Echoes & Emptiness



The other day I wrote a poem that inspired me to journal and reflect on a road trip I took out West this past summer and a song I repeatedly played while driving.  

I won't share that poem here if that's what you expected.  Maybe someday, it will find its way into something. 

But my journaling took me back to that trip and the stark landscape of central New Mexico.  It was filled with emptiness if that makes sense.  As far as I could see, nothing but the pink and green colors of a foreboding terrain stretched for what seemed like forever. 

It was beautiful. 

I  stopped at a rest area in the middle of it all and stood for a while staring into the nothingness, letting the warm wind blowing in my face, and listening to the sounds of the birds, breeze, and the occasional car that passed by. 

For some reason, I decided to say something out loud.  No one was there, so I figured it was a good time to act oddly.  

"You there?" I shouted.  "Hello?"  

My own words rang in my ear as I continued to repeat those questions for God.  And then I fell back into silence, waiting for a response.  I saw a bird circling above and some clouds that looked like castles.  

The light around me suddenly looked more beautiful than when I'd exited my car.  

It was the "golden hour," when the sun's rays take on a hue that makes everything look like it's been cast in a soothing relief, and the contours of every branch, leaf, brush, stone, and ridge were gloriously visible in light and shadow. 

My shouted questions echoed back to me; at least, that's how I remember it.  I began to grin at that point and then laughed out loud.  "Okay, okay," I said then, and I got back in my car and kept driving north. 

Some time ago, I wrote down a snippet of a poem by Padraig O'Tuama that had this line: 
I believe that echoes 
need a certain kind of emptiness
in order to be heard. 
For the longest time, I didn't know what to make of that line, but it occurred to me as I journaled about my experience that I knew exactly what it meant. 

Sometimes God speaks to us in the echoes of our own shouted questions.  And those echoes require what O'Tuama calls "a certain kind of emptiness" to be adequately heard. 

On that day, I heard the echoes of my questions come back to me in the emptiness of the landscape and the emptiness I was feeling inside.  And then I was suddenly aware of the presence of God all around me, even as I was wondering out loud if God was even there.  

It is a beautiful memory and a great reminder of how sometimes we must let go of everything to experience the most important thing--that we are not alone.  God is always with us. 

May you experience God in your emptiness and echoes.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen.  

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