My heart abhors a vacuum

I recently wrote about how time abhors a vacuum. As I have pondered this, I realize that my soul abhors a vacuum as well. In this technologically driven world, I am constantly surrounded by distraction. And I welcome it. I welcome it because my heart is afraid. “Entering a private room and shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we imediately shut out all our inner doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distraction, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises. This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important.” – Henri Nouwen

I recently read something that struck home to me on this point. “…we have become, as Kierkegaard said, tranquilized by the trivial. When the tranquilizer wears off and the analgesics of busyness and distraction lie beyond our reach, we have no other option than to face our inner worlds. In the twenty-first century there is no task more difficult, no spiritual discipline more painful, than learning to be still. But there is none more rewarding.”

As I shut off the Internet and choose how to fill my time, I find that my soul squirms at the quiet. It doesn’t want to face the interior noises. The practice of quiet that has been so central to the teachings of the Church, has largely been lost today. Indeed, I fear that I have never learned how to be quiet. Or, perhaps, I have forgotten it. I don’t want empty space and so I fill it with noise. With Facebook or Pinterest, or even my precious blogging.

This is why technology is so dangerous. It can lure us away from the things that are truly important to the things that are merely urgent, or (even worse) completely trivial. I heard John Piper say this: “We have a curse on human nature called triviality. The big problems with television and movies [and the Internet, and video games] aren’t sex and violence. It’s banality. It’s living every day as though TV [Internet, video games, movies] mattered.”

In Henri Nouwen’s book “The Way of the Heart“, he talks about solitude, silence and prayer. He quotes a woman names Mother Theodora who says “…you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through accidie (sense of boredom), faintheartedness, and evil thoughts. It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees and all the members. It dissapates the strenth of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray. But if we are vigilant, all these temptations will fall away.”

I see in myself in these words. As Paul wrote, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)
I want to sit down and peer into my heart. I want to allow myself to face the interior noise and find Peace. But instead I continue to find myself distracted. I find new ways to tranqualize my soul. I can echo Paul completely when he said, “Wretched [woman] that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

What I have found is that our souls hold deep wounds. Pain from many years. And so we start to run. We fill our lives with things that will squelch the silence (even good things). The problem is that once we cut ourselves off from the noise, we must first face the pain in ourselves before we can see the joy.

For me, facing the noise has meant a return to counseling. Every time I quiet myself, I find tears and hurts. Some new, some old. But I cannot sort through them on my own. So I am back with a trusted counselor who is helping me to see Truth and light. Who is helping me to face what comes when I grow silent. And it is a journey towards good.

What about you? Does your heart abhor a vacuum? Do you fill your life with the tranquelizors of the world? I hope and pray you will join me on the journey of life.

~ Melissa


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Angie Chavangi on September 12, 2012 at 2:32 am

    I know God has been telling me to be still. So many decisions and sacrifices to be made, but i am willing although i know the road is not easy. thanks mel for sharing this.


  2. Posted by Emily on September 12, 2012 at 10:30 am

    hey Mel,
    i know we haven’t seen each other in ages, but every once and awhile your blog comes up on my feed…and i am so thankful for your honesty and transparency. this one was especially good. thank you again.


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