Can you imagine a street hustler on a street corner saying, “Hey pal come here – do I have a deal for you!
“What is it?” you ask.
He says, “Make yourself nothing.”
You ask, “What does it cost?”
He says, “Well I’m not sure, but it cost Jesus everything.”
Our friendly street hustler probably wouldn’t have a lot of takers, would he?
The words in reference to Jesus emptying himself and or “made himself nothing” (Phil 2) have been ringing through my head this morning. As far as Jesus was concerned it had to do with being humble, and becoming a servant, even to the point of death. I think emptying ourselves and becoming nothing relate to prayer too.
In prayer we get the opportunity to empty ourselves and become nothing, to lay down our agendas and pray for, and hopefully do the will of God. In the process, if we stay at it long enough, God becomes everything. It’s not easy, it’s far from automatic, it’s contrary to what society says we should do, and it’s even the opposite of our very nature. It’s one of those things that only comes through prayer and suffering. Frankly, it’s why not a lot of books on contemplation become No. 1 bestsellers, and why contemplation is resisted, even in Christian circles.
On top of that, emptying ourselves and becoming nothing is one of those things we only come to through grace. There is no formula. It’s a gift of God and we have very little control over it. We can forgive ourselves, and let go of the things that imprison us. Then we can walk out of our cells – whatever they may be, including judgmental forms of religion, and be able to stand in the dark, and be able to just be with God. I honestly don’t entirely know what happens next, accept that I need to do what I can to keep leaving the my cell, go stand on a ledge, and stare out at the darkness, of Nothing, and simply rest in the presence of God. I think our faith, love and confidence in God grows to an incredible depth as we empty ourselves and become nothing.
Here I stand in the dark, at the edge of Nothing, with a bit of a sense of the presence and love of God. And that’s it.
learning to pray: What does becoming nothing mean to you when it comes to prayer?