One of my father’s favorite expressions was “nature abhors a vacuum.” Apparently this comes from Aristotle, and I am not scientifically literate enough to know whether that categorical statement is still correct. But it’s a useful idea spiritually, that things often come to us more effortlessly if we create space for them. Or perhaps the corollary is more helpful for me: that when I fill my life up with too much activity, too much distraction, too much stuff, then there is no space to receive the unexpected gift, the bit of grace, or even the opportunity to serve.
I was reminded of my dad’s expression last year when my brother quit his job without another one lined up. That’s a risky thing to do in any economy, and sensible people will say you should look while you’re still drawing a paycheck. But in Luke’s case, it worked—the empty space that was created by his resigning was filled up, and quite quickly, by another great opportunity.
Would that have happened anyway if he’d looked before he resigned? Sure, perhaps—but that empty space gave him a sense of urgency and, I would say, a MacGyver-ish creativity to use everything he had to fashion a new career opportunity for himself. Don’t we all know people who do jobs they hate for months and years, all the while dreaming of something else? Don’t you wonder what would happen if they just up and quit?
[Please note that I am not giving employment advice.]
Some time ago I read a book about simplicity and getting by with less. The author suggested that when you find yourself in need of something, to wait and see if it might come to you another way before going out and buying it. The person even suggested telling folks, “Hey, I’m really in need of this—do you have one to spare, or do you have any ideas?”
Something about the way the author presented this smacked of begging, so I dismissed it at the time. On the other hand, if it’s done in the right way, why not put a need out there in the universe and see what happens?
Several times in the last three weeks, something I needed or wanted has come to me without my having to go out and buy it. In no case did I ask someone for the item, but in every case, I made a decision to wait before buying it… just to see. Just to open up some space for… who knows?
One of them was small. After our trip to NYC we really needed some groceries, but I was procrastinating, mainly because I hate shopping, but also to see how far we could get on freezer and pantry miscellany. Two days later a friend gave me two quarts of fresh berries that were being thrown out by the high-end chocolate shop where her daughter works. The berries were no longer pristine but still perfectly good. They lasted for several meals.
I have wanted some additional winter clothes for James, but I’ve been putting off buying any, because again, I hate shopping. While doing yet another quick load of laundry so he’d have long pants to wear the next day I thought, “I would love to be the recipient of someone’s hand-me-downs… but I have no idea who to ask.”
Several days later my friend L offered to give us her son’s clothes after he outgrows them. I’ve gotten several bags full so far, and she’s thrilled to have a destination for this stuff.
The third happened just this morning. Both girls want American Girl dolls, and that’s just not something we’re going to do. But thanks to a Facebook post about gift ideas for eight year olds, we have not one, but two hand-me-down AG dolls coming our way for Christmas. Compliments of a friend and her college-age daughter.
As I ponder Thanksgiving and gratitude, this is what I am thinking about. Gratitude is about appreciating what one has, but maybe it’s also about trusting that things can come unexpectedly from others, not just our own resources, time, and money.
I wonder what needs or desires you have that you could put out into the world… just to see what happens. Or how this idea has worked for you.