“Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except
through a sincere gift of himself.” Gaudium et Spes 24
One of the core truths of the Theology of the Body is that there is a “spousal” meaning of our bodies, that we are all called to make a gift of ourselves and in this act of giving we truly find ourselves. Gifts come in different shapes and sizes, just as people do. As a unique, unrepeatable human being, the gift I give to the world of my authentic self is completely unique to me and has a unique shape. But what is that shape?
You may have heard it said that there is a God-shaped hole in each one of us that we try and fill with other things but only God can truly satisfy and fill. Most of the cheesy Christian pictures show a heart with a hole in the shape of a cross or something similar. But what if there was a deeper truth to this sentiment? What if there was a unique God-shaped hole in each of us that also denoted the shape of the gift that God has called us to be for the world?
This was the reflection that I was led on after reading the book, “The Reed of God” by Caryll Houselander. The book is a collection of reflections on the life of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, and her interactions with Jesus. Houselander talks about how it was Mary’s virginal emptiness that allowed her to conceive Jesus and bear him to the world, and that each of us is called to do the same. This emptiness is not a formless void without meaning but has a shape that denotes its purpose. Mary was the reed of God on which he could play his song of eternal love, she was the chalice into which the purest water of humanity would be poured, mingled with wine, changed to the crimson blood of love, and lifted up in sacrifice, and she was the empty nest ready to receive and nurture the divine child.
I have prayed many times over the last few years with this idea of the shape of my emptiness having a purpose that shows me how I am to incarnate Jesus in the world around me and make a gift of my authentic self. Each time God shows me more about myself, my gift of my true identity, his desires for me, and the shape of my life.
The first time I prayed I had an image of a jug that was to be poured out for others. If I’m honest, I wasn’t very happy about it. I remember journaling about it at the time and being almost angry that I was being shown such an ordinary everyday object and not something more spectacular. It didn’t help that I was feeling undervalued, underappreciated, and overlooked in my job at the time and so the thought of being poured out for others and not getting any credit for it was really quite painful!
Even in the midst of the pain I knew that there was truth in this image. It has not gone away and no other has taken its place. A little while later I went back to the image and was led to think about the material that the jug was made of. It wasn’t made of glass or metal but made of very ordinary earthenware clay. I realised that this material is at once very strong and very vulnerable. It has been moulded by the potter with intention and spent time in the fiery furnace to make it strong, but if it is dropped, it will still break. I was reminded of all the times that my faith had been tested and grown stronger, but it was also a call to not let my heart be hardened, to allow my vulnerability to be part of my strength particularly when journeying with other people in faith and trying to love them well.
I was led back to the image again more recently while processing and praying through the emptiness I felt at the death of my sister. I realised that a fear of emptiness had always followed me throughout my life and that this was an attack on part of my deepest identity.
The great moment of freedom came when I realised that the capacity, the emptiness of the jug is its very gift to the world. Only when the jug is empty can it be filled, and to be filled again it must be poured out, and when it is being poured out people can see to the depths of the jug’s capacity. My capacity, my emptiness, is part of my unique gift to the world and, in being poured out, it allows others to see into the depths of my heart and my true self.
Rather than my emptiness being something to fear, it is something to be embraced. In allowing God to redeem my emptiness and my fear he shows me how to make a gift of myself to others and to the world. What’s the shape of your emptiness? What’s the shape of your gift? Allow God to show you the truth of his deepest desire for your unique gift to the world.
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