Emptied Out


I was a little over an hour away from Dallas, where I’d planned to stop for the night, when three warning lights popped up on my dash.

Panic. I’m on an interstate surrounded by nothing but ranchland. I still had about another 10 hours of driving to get back to El Paso. Plus, it’s Friday night of Memorial Day weekend.

After pulling over to peruse my manual and check my engine, I offer a prayer to get somewhere safely. Then I decide to calm down. I decide to trust that whatever happens, it’ll be OK. And I let go of any expectation to make it back to El Paso tomorrow.

This is not a typical response for me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been getting a lot of practice in learning to trust over these past several years.

Maybe it’s the effects of listening to CDs on Meister Eckhart and the art of letting go while taking this incredibly long roundtrip drive from El Paso to Virginia.

Maybe it’s because, from the beginning, this journey has been about ridding myself of what is unnecessary. Of letting go of attachments and outcomes. Of learning to say yes to what is in front of me.

And there’s no doubt it’s because of what I’ve seen and experienced along the way.

Days earlier I had emptied out the extra bedroom at a friend’s house where I’d stored boxes I couldn’t get to before leaving Virginia last January. Sorting through years of family photos and other memorabilia filled me with gratitude for the blessed life I’d had.
A life I couldn’t return to. No matter how appealing it seemed.

And appealing it was. Visiting friends who were settling into a simpler life with their husbands, their kids now grown and out of college, yet still living close enough for family get-togethers in the beautiful rural countryside of central Virginia – I’ll admit, it was attractive.

This physical emptying out, I realized, was a metaphor for the internal releasing and emptying that has been going on. An emptying of attitudes as well as possessions, of the way I would like life to show up. The way I would like things to be.

Like not having car issues on the interstate, for example. Or not having my husband die so young. Or living so far away from my son who’s remaining in Alaska for at least another year.

Yet I also saw how, the more I “empty myself out,” the more I have room for God. And for “the other.” Room for true listening. For opening to the grace that’s right here.


The next day, as I sat in the customer service area at the Dallas Sewell Subaru, waiting to get the news about my car, I pulled out a letter I’d received from Martin, a 27-year-old Mexican journalist who’d come here seeking asylum because his life had been threatened. He was stuck in the El Paso detention facility, awaiting the results of his case.

I’d begun writing to Martin, hoping to encourage and visit him soon. I was considering my response to his letter when I received a text from a friend in El Paso saying that Martin had been denied asylum for the second time! Losing hope, he’d decided to give up his case rather than appeal and remain in our prison-like system. That means he’ll be returning to Mexico where at least half a dozen journalists have been killed in recent months. His young life is surely in danger.

Suddenly my minor inconvenience is irrelevant. My calling to follow my heart clearer than ever.

It may be that every time I step out in faithfulness, I’m taking a risk. But my risks are insignificant compared to the risks taken by those I’ve accompanied, my brothers and sisters running for their lives. People who live in constant fear and danger.

Living with an open-hearted stance is not easy. I feel the pain of the other as I grow in awareness that my life is not about me.

But this is what I choose. And I need grace to succeed.

“Grace leads us to the state of emptiness, to that momentary sense of meaningless in which we ask, ‘What is it all for? What does it all mean?’ All we can do is try to keep our hands cupped and open. And it is even grace to do that.”       Richard Rohr

I hope that I am being “emptied out” so that I can be filled with the very fullness of that grace.

7 thoughts on “Emptied Out

  1. Rob Morrell

    Dear Pauline –

    Each time I read one of your entries in your “A Journey of the Heart” blog, it seems that my initial response is to thank you, and so it is again. For in leaning into all your fears and yet finding the courage to follow your longings, you shine a light on the dim path for all of us, and for that I am so very grateful.

    You also shine a light on lives like Martin’s, about which we would otherwise know very little, and likely fall prey to the temptation to categorize (lazily) such people as “other” – and God knows there is enough of that happening already!

    This whole notion of emptying out and creating capacity is a fascinating and challenging one, isn’t it? As you know, St. Paul and others have used the word “kenosis” to describe this self-emptying process: when we are too “full” of possessions and plans and worries and woes, there is no room for grace to enter amd germinate, is there? But when we finally carve out some space, and grace does work a few of its small miracles, our sense of scarcity does gradually get transformed into an appreciation of abundance, doesn’t it? And, of course, that in itself is evidence of the grace all around us, too.

    In my better moments, I really can see that it’s all gift…

    Keep bearing witness, mi amiga! Surely you know it is one of your gifts – to all of us!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pauline

      Rob, thanks, as always, for such thoughtful and encouraging comments. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth all I put into writing this for the small audience I have, but you remind me that positively impacting even just a few people is worth it. Thanks for being such a supportive friend.


    1. Pauline

      Thank you, Maureen. I appreciate that you read my posts and that you feel they are a gift to you. Sometimes it takes a lot out of me to write them!


  2. Kathy

    Wow, again, I am so deeply touched. I truly look forward to your writings. Emptying out ,letting go, trusting – life’s invitation, if I am open. Thank you, Kathy


  3. Debbie

    You continue to amaze me. What a witness you are to Christ, and His followers. I do pray you got home safely, and am so glad I got to see you for a little bit. I thank you for your continued work, prayer, and for helping those in need. You challenge me, and I am glad! Love and miss you. Deb 🙂


Leave a Reply to Kathy Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s