Thursday, May 19, 2016

Emptiness and Fullness

I went away full, but the Lord brought me back empty.” 
(Naomi's lament on her return to Bethlehem, Ruth 1:21)

Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town... 
(from the Samaritan woman's encounter with Jesus, John 4:15, 28)

Starting out full and ending up empty or arriving empty and leaving full.

In the God Sightings One Year Bible Jordan gave me for Christmas, these two passages were on the same day's reading. And have caused me to think about going from full to empty or empty to full.

I can relate to the stories of both of these women.

This time last year I was packing up our apartment in Lanzhou: deciding what to keep, what to throw away, what to give away...And I was tired. I remember a friend asking us in February if I needed someone to fly over to help me with what felt like an overwhelming job, and I seriously contemplated that possibility. I had been running on empty for more than two years. Before David and Daniel joined our family, my fuel indicator had already hit the red burnout zone. 

And adding the stress of adoption definitely did not increase my emotional or physical reserves. I felt like I had nothing to give and was hanging on by a thread. As we made plans to return to the US for an indefinite amount of time, I pictured myself limping home. Like Naomi in the story of Ruth.

Now that we've been back in the US for almost a year, I can see myself in the story of the Samaritan woman as well. Who left her empty water jug by the well and ran back to town to tell everyone that the stranger she had met just might be the Messiah. She left behind her brokenness and shame. And as she ran with an unbelievable message soaring up in her heart, she took on a brand new name. Transformed.

Naomi's transformation was unexpected as well. I think she had resolved, as she limped back home after the death of her husband and two sons, that her life would be bitter until her final breath. But in the midst of her despair there's a thread of hope. She arrived in Bethlehem with her faithful daughter-in-law Ruth “as the barley harvest was beginning.” (Ruth 1:22)

God had a plan for them involving a godly man named Boaz, and a year or so later...

The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given birth.” Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:14-17)

An empty old woman who was sure that her brittle branch would be cut off, found herself in the genealogy of King David. And later Jesus. Unexpectedly filled with the hope of new life. From full to empty. To full again.

And the Samaritan woman's story is forever preserved in the book of John. As the first person to whom Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah. A woman, who was empty in every way, experienced a fullness as she never thought possible.

And me? My tanks are filling up again. 

(Linking up with Velvet Ashes this week on the theme of Change)


  1. I can relate to the running on empty feeling...not when we left (although that was hard) but in some of our earlier years - adopting was hard, and packing was hard - (we have a lot in common,don't we! :-) ) btu I can't imagine being on empty before starting either of them - and both together - wow.

    Beautiful post about being empty and full - and such hope that when we ARE empty, we know that God can and will fill us...

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michele. Hope that we can connect in July. You're coming to COS right?



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