"What then can I give Him...
empty as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would know my part.
What then can I give Him?
I must give my heart.."
It's about that time again*...holiday songs on Pandora, the kitchen redolent with the spicy aromas of cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, and clove. This afternoon, James Taylors' "In the Bleak Midwinter," floated through the kitchen, hovering just above the scent of pumpkin muffins wafting from the oven. These first few days of late autumn...leading into the holidays, are as bittersweet as the tiny persimmon berries, ...cloaked in their brittle wheat-colored jackets...that we will gather from the tangled brier, deep in the woods, just off campus.
I'd just popped the muffin tins into the oven...slicing gooey batter-filled cups through a cloud of dense heat...when James, singing Christina Rossetti's plaintive question began:
"What then can I give him,
Empty as I am..."
I sank down on to one of the painted, butter yellow, kitchen chairs...surrendering to the moment. Wiping my wet hands on a blue-checked kitchen towel, I asked, "hmmm, what? What then can I give Him?"
I wasn't thinking of a "Santa List," with lines items for my husband, son, son-in-law, or grandson to be checked off once the wrapping paper and ribbons were securely in place. No, I was thinking about "what," right now, right then and there -- this day -- I could bring to God. To my God, the core Love of my life...the one true love that all of the other loves in my life spring from, and are blessed by.
And as I sat there pondering this question while James moved on to the next track on the CD, the thought resounded, "Yes, that is it...that is the gift most wonderful gift. It is the one I always have "at the ready"...my absolute emptiness." Spiritual pioneer, social reformer, and human kindness activist, Mother Teresa once said:
"It is only when you realize your nothingness,
that God can fill you with Himself."
And isn't this what our Father-Mother, our Maker - who is our Husband, our Friend of the friendless -- wants most from us...an emptiness that He can fill with purpose, vision, desire, works of charity, generosity, humility, and grace.
There is an old Kikuyu proverb that says:
"One can never hear anything new
as long as his mouth is filled
with his own words, and his
ears are filled with his own thoughts."
I want this "something new" something surprisingly, serendipitously, astoudingly new. I want to know that I can be stopped in my tracks by an inspiration that I've never even considered before. I want to be rendered speechless by a miracle of grace..."the divine influence on the heart and its reflection in the life." I want to find myself acting in a way that I could never have imagined...freely, confidently, with childlike joy in the moment.
Recently I heard someone refer to this definition of "intimacy" and it has continued to resonate with me:
"to give someone your undivided attention"
This is what God, my "adorable One" gives me each moment, of everyday. In our relationship there is "just the two of us" He loves me, His divine idea with absolute devotion. And doesn't it make sense that I, in turn, would bring, to our festal table, a vessel-heart, achingly empty, for Him to fill?
This is the only gift I can ever, really, bring Him...to show up "fully" empty. Fully ready to know Him, fully prepared to serve him, fully open to receive Him, fully eager to be transformed by Him. This is where I can rest my hopes...fully, in this emptiness.
Thank goodness for yet another season of songs that make us stop in our tracks and think of the gifts we will bring...as well as the gifts of grace we are given each day...
Kate Robertson, CS
*Each year I seem to find that the Christina Rossetti lyrics to this timeless winter classic give birth to a new moment of inspiration. If you'd like to read the others, I am including the link to other "In the Bleak Midwinter" posts, here.
[photo credit: another stunning Nathaniel Wilder image 2010]