Have you ever been in one of those funks where you just feel empty? You feel so empty inside that you don’t really feel anything at all? You’re numb and disconnected. Very recently, I had been in one of those ruts for several weeks and, try as I might, I just couldn’t get out. I had no desire to do good or get outside of myself. I had nothing in the tank. The thought of getting out and visiting someone to cheer them up or making food for someone–my usual means of de-funking my life and getting out of that rut–overwhelmed me. The very thought of it was exhausting. I had nothing. I was stuck. The only thing I could do was to pray and ask God for help. I asked God to help me find a way out.
I had no desire to do good or get outside of myself. I had nothing in the tank.
After several more days of this empty disconnectedness, I decided to take my 12-year-old daughter, Sophie, for a drive up the canyon to scout out my favorite fishing holes to see if the violence of winter, followed by the aggressive spring runoff, had damaged my favorite spots. As we were driving, we noticed a young couple–two teenagers–stopped on the side of the road. I drove right past them. Then that “something” inside of me–that voice that whispers to your soul–told me to turn around and go see if that young couple needed help. They did.
Turns out a jagged rock in the road had blown their tire and they had no clue as to how to remove it and replace it with the spare tire in their trunk. They didn’t know how to use the tire jack. They didn’t know how to remove the lug nuts. So I jacked up their car, removed the blown tire, and replaced it with the spare. They happily went on their way. And I happily went on my way, as well. But I wasn’t empty any more. I was filled with love.
Helping this young couple reminded me of one of the teachings in my book, Built to Love: “Yes, God’s love feels fleeting at times. But I think this is because we were created as conduits, not reservoirs, of God’s love. The miracle of God’s plan is that the best way we can keep God’s love is by giving it away. It seems that if you want to feel God’s love, you have to share it.”
Serving this young couple in this very small way made me feel connected to God once again, which was a good thing because I was scheduled to speak to a youth group at a local university the very next day. I was terrified of speaking to them about becoming built to love when I was overwhelmed with disconnectedness and felt no love inside of me at all. Fortunately, God heard my little prayer and put someone in my path to help me break the cycle.
When we perform acts of love and service we invoke the presence of God, for God IS love. “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16.) Where love is, there God is also. So if you long for God’s presence, then stop thinking of yourself, stop brooding, and put yourself in the presence of others. Choose to love them and you will soon find yourself happy and in the presence of God. In the immortal words of Jean Val Jean from the beloved Les Miserables, to love another person is to see the face of God.
I am reminded, once again, of my “Proxy Triangle”:
Since Jesus taught “inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these … ye have done it unto me,” others stand as proxies for Him. That means there is a triangular relationship between me, God and others–an at-one-ment that brings us together through love and compassion. One of my favorite authors and teachers, Richard Rohr, recently explained it this way:
It’s a beautiful thing to feel connected again. I know that darkness will return one day. I know that I will find myself lost in a cave of emptiness once more. This is because I am mortal, weak and still learning. This oneness or at-one-ment with everyone and everything waxes and wanes. But, through pursuing a path of discipleship, I am learning how to cope better. I am learning how to live.
As I look back on it, the things that caused the darkness to settle in were rather mundane and routine. I had spent too much time at work. I hadn’t been getting enough sleep. This rendered me self-centered instead of other-centered, and derailed me for a time on my journey to becoming built to love. As Jesus put it, “He that findeth his life shall lose it.” (Matthew 10:39.) Thankfully, however, a flat tire on the side of the road has me back on track.