My life is full of gaps lately. Good gaps.
Here’s an example: I’ve been cutting back significantly on my internet usage, because frankly I’m weary of the overwhelming amount of snark and cynicism I encounter there daily. And with that cutting-back comes sudden gaps in my time: stretches of leisure that I’d otherwise fill with browsing celebrity blogs or reading news.
There are gaps, too, in my thoughts. I’ve had a cold recently, which is a particularly annoying brand of sickness: I’m not sick enough to justify hiding out from the world, but I’m too sick to fully engage with it. Since I’m fasting from complaining, I find that my mind wanders when it would otherwise be griping about my chapped nose or how few cough drops are in a package: there are empty spaces where my complaining used to be.
What this is teaching me is that empty space allow room for growth.
My husband recently purchased two tiny pots of ivy for me. I have never grown anything indoors in my life and wasn’t too sure about how it would go, but I’ve done my best: I followed the instructions on the pots about water and light, and I perched them on top of a high empty shelf in our living room. To my surprise, since that time the ivy has exploded: little green arms uncurling and stretching out in every imaginable direction.
And gaps, too, are like that. When you leave some empty spaces and some freedom in your life, there is space for an explosion of growth and God starts popping up everywhere – almost like He’s been waiting for you to make some room. For me, the gaps in my time have meant an exponential growth in service- and ministry-related writing and crafting, along with additional Bible study and simple prayer to and meditation with God. And the gaps in my thoughts have turned me, I think – I hope – into a more grateful person who is slowly (slooooowly) starting to perceive trials and inconveniences differently; ‘m replacing complaints with gratitude and encouragement and hopefulness.
But you have to make room for these things. And we live in a culture that doesn’t want to make room for anything. We schedule our work and our leisure time to the minute, and we’re desperate to fill in gaps with all sorts of noise: with music, with internet, with television, with anything so that we don’t have to sit down and think and say hmmm, what should I do? We are masters of distracting ourselves from ourselves, when I think that we’d all benefit from space and emptiness and just a little bit of time.
Scientists have discovered over time that “free play” – time to just get around and run around and do nothing in particular but be creative and let your mind go – is vitally important to the development of children. It helps them learn to solve problems, teaches them independence, and encourages mental and physical growth. I suspect adults could benefit a little from the same. It’s the Sabbath principle: we need to permit space in our lives for rest and just being.
Cast a critical eye over your schedule and your daily thoughts. What are your time-fillers? What are the things you do just so that you have something to do? Where are the places your thoughts dwell that keep you tethered to worldly realities? When it’s possible, cut some of those out of your life. Create some gaps and allow God to get in. When we have some time to just rest and be and to think about nothing in particular but Him, we might be surprised by what results.