The Path to Empty (Fasting II)
Jesus entered into and experienced a deep emptying. In Philippians 2, Paul says that Jesus, though he was God, emptied himself.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
This path of emptying is called kenosis. Emptying preceded Jesus’ resurrection, and the resurrection could not take place without it. We often think of spirituality as a filling up, of more information, more good deeds, more effort—and those are all good things. But authentic spirituality is catalyzed by falling into God and being held by Him. It is an emptying which allows us to be filled. Good deeds, for example, must be borne out of our falling into God and not an attempt to earn anything from God. Only then can the deeds be filled with true spiritual power. This is why spirituality is always an unlearning. Only when we are falling can we trust God to catch us. Abram became Abraham journeying far from everything he’d ever known and all the comforts of his old life. As David Brooks says, “If you ask anybody, ‘What’s the activity that you had that made you who you are?’ no one says, ‘You know I had a really great vacation in Hawaii.’ No one says that. They say, ‘I had a period of struggle. I lost a loved one. I was in the Army. And that period of struggle or that period of toughness made me who I am.’”
Such emptying is the path of resurrection because God has redeemed even death. He has, in Jesus, made it a path to life. We can, therefore be emptied without fear, even if it is painful. Indeed, we must be emptied, to be held by God. As Jesus said, to bear life, a seed must fall to the ground and die. It is a strange truth, but when we are held by God in the place of suffering, it is worth if, even if feel like we’re dying. I remember, in times of depression, being so aware of beauty that, when the depression left, there was some part of it that I missed. I missed how deeply I was in touch with the raw power of God’s divine energy and how sensitive I was to beauty all around me. The perfection of a bare tree limb against a white moon was forever imprinted on my heart and mind. When I experienced something beautiful, like that, I felt God was holding me and, in some way, I learned to be held by God. I’m not glorifying depression, but rather pointing out the reality that when we are emptied, we often come into contact with fundamental realities which, when we are filled again, we can appreciate in entirely new ways.
In fasting, we enter into the pattern of kenosis, so that we can taste resurrection. By fasting, we create space for the Holy Spirit to come closer to us. Jesus, after all, called the Holy Spirit the paraclete, which means a defender or an advocate, as in court, and literally “one who comes alongside.” Paul says, for example, that the Spirit comes alongside us to convince us of our adoption in God. Image that! God’s Spirit is always working, at every moment, to bring you into the reality of who God is and who you are in God. This is exactly what the world needs! If we are liberated, we can liberate. As Paul goes on to say, “All creation is groaning” and “All creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.” If we are emptied, we create space for the Spirit to teach us that we are God’s children. Then we become empowered to love and see the world around us redeemed in new ways, as we love in Jesus’ name. When we fast, we create space for the Spirit to fill us.
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From the Greek kenóō. The word can also be translated “to be perceived as without value, worthless.” Try to wrap your head around this: God, the One of ultimate value, became as one perceived as worthless. This is what God willingly did, in Jesus, for our sake.
Genesis 12:1-2, Genesis 17:5.
David Brooks, qtd. in “What’s The Key To A Meaningful Life? You Might Not Like The Answer.”
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/david-brooks-life-meaning_us_56e6f962e4b0b25c9182b0c3 [December 30, 2017].
2 Corinthians 4:16, Romans 8:18.