Self-Emptying and the Fullness of Love

Emptying of self: just hearing this phrase can be challenging and often brings about fears and feelings of drained emotion. But it doesn’t have to be the case. The fruit of self-emptying hinges on one’s motivation and guidance. If we empty the thoughts, vices, and emotional baggage that fills our hearts and weighs down our lives, but do so without the eyes of faith then we have only created space for a pointless void. Fear must never fuel our motivation to empty- neither shame, nor personal guilt, or a sense of pride.

Love, in the truest sense of the word, must fuel our desire to empty. Love does not seek to empty for the sake of emptying, or to cleanse because it will help us feel better about ourselves and our relations with others, or because we want to become minimalists. Love is not sterile and lifeless but is instead motivated by purity and a deeper desire for something greater to fill the emptiness, or perhaps someone.

This process is not often simple and straightforward. Fears, anxieties, habits of sin, personal preferences, and past wounds take many different forms for all of us. Letting go of these attachments and the ways in which we pray through some of these things may look different for varying individuals. Since our hearts were created so uniquely by the Father, the process of scraping the attachments and clutter away from our hearts must create uniquely beautiful results. As we empty, our ugliness and darkness is shaped and transformed into beauty and light when our hearts are open and cooperative with the Father’s hands. I imagine this process looking something like these ceramic pieces, made by my friend Jill Ross.

This sort of emptying waits. It creates an anticipatory space in our hearts. A cleansed heart that has poured out its own self-interested clutter waits in joyful, focused hope, for the fullness it is worthy of receiving. The fullness of beauty, light, and love Himself. We empty ourselves to make room for only LOVE to fill us. Love, that is, Christ.

 Let us examine ourselves as this Advent season begins and make room for the One who wants to enter and transform our hearts fully. And may we live in the freedom that comes from true self-emptying.  —Erin K. McAtee (Danbury, CT)

Thank you Jill for letting me share your beautiful work! Jill is a talented ceramicist and art teacher living in Jacksonville, FL. Here are some more images from her senior thesis, as well as her artist statement: