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Empty Spaces

A small child sat happily in the soft, green grass gingerly examining a single red rose. Its petals were soft, like silk to the touch. The thorns had been carefully removed, leaving the stem smooth enough to run her little finger over. She marveled at the beauty of this individual rose, at the delicate yet heady scent that greeted her whenever she leaned in close.

As she sat there, lost in admiration, her father approached her, a broad smile on his face. He leaned toward her, one arm down in invitation, the other tucked behind his back. She looked up and grinned at her papa, for it was he who had given her the single rose.

“My child,” her father said softly, “please give me the rose.”

The child was torn. She loved her papa, but she didn’t understand why he would want to take away her beautiful rose. Why could he possibly want it? She had admired it so carefully, so tenderly. Didn’t he trust her? Didn’t he sense the deep joy this single flower gave her? With tear-filled eyes, she asked, “Why, Papa? I love this rose. Why can’t I keep it?”

“You must trust me, my child,” he answered quietly.

Reluctantly, despite her fear and confusion, the child slowly handed the beautiful rose over to her father. He smiled broadly at her, and said, “Because you’ve trusted me, and given me something you love, I have something for you in return.” From behind his back he pulled out an entire bouquet of exquisite roses, each perfect and flawless in its beauty. Delight washed over her as he gently placed the bouquet in her arms for her to keep.

I have been that child, and I suspect so have you. There comes a time when God is calling us to leave behind something, sometimes even something we’ve loved and enjoyed. What we need to let go of isn’t bad; in fact, sometimes it’s very, very good. It could be a career, a relationship, a very specific personal dream, or even the current path you find yourself on in your life. Yet all the same, God is asking us to let it go, to return it to His hands.

And like that child, we can feel that sense of fear and confusion, of hurt and pain, when God first asks us to let go. In that moment, we don’t know what He has waiting behind His back. We don’t know or understand what God has in store for us; we can’t see what He already knows.

Sometimes the moment of letting go is the hardest part of faith. I can stubbornly cling to my rose, unwilling to trust what I can’t understand. God has a way of gently prying my fingers loose, of helping me trust in those moments He has something even greater in the wings, just waiting, if I will simply take that leap of faith. I have found there is real power that comes from the letting go.

Most often, though, it’s the moments in-between that challenge me, the moment right after I’ve firmly relinquished the rose but have yet to receive the bouquet. God has called me to something richer, something greater. Sometimes I even know what it is He’s leading me to. Still, nothing has happened yet. I’m taking my first fledging steps forward on a new path He’s marked out for me, and the space that was once full is now empty. I can look back longingly at what was familiar, forgetting to keep my eyes focused faithfully forward. I fight to want to take the rose back again. It was, after all, a perfectly fine rose.

It’s in those in-between moments that I have learned and grown the most in my faith. When you leap off a cliff, there is fear, yes, but there is also freedom, exhilaration, and a wild trust that fills your soul with determination. But more importantly, there is a sense of awe, of joy and wonder when God catches you in His arms and shows you the amazing gift He has in store for you. And the more you and I leap, the more we experience God’s presence showing up in profound ways in our lives, the deeper our confidence grows, and the greater our impact on this world becomes. We shine even more brightly because we’re stepping out to take hold of the destiny God created for us to live long before we entered this world.

So I cling to my faith during those in-between times. I remember my dad is a good, good Father, fully able to bring me to a new and better space. That thought, that knowledge, helps me not to fear the void, but instead to wait expectantly for His next gift. What about you?

For further thought: What are you holding onto in your life that God might be asking you to let go of? Remember, sometimes what He asks us to let go of is good and right. Never forget: what He wants to replace it with is always better. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he promised … [for] faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” (Hebrews 10:35-36, 11:1).

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