There are times when I need to go to an empty place to be filled. Once, I searched for a night sky empty of light pollution in order to experience the wonder of a panoramic sky of stars that spread from horizon to horizon. In the clarity of that night, the stars appeared so close it felt as if I could reach up and touch them. Another time I found myself traveling into a waterless desert to irrigate my soul with the beauty of a dry and desolate place. I found a similar feeling early one morning while walking the dark and empty streets of downtown Los Angeles several hours before the city awakened. In each of those places, I discovered a sweet vacancy that caused me to pause and reflect on things a busy and constantly occupied life does not consider.
Above our home is a small, elevated valley that deflects the noise of the surrounding community from within the stillness of its tree-lined enclosure. Whenever I hike into that small valley, I stop and experience what I call the hush. The unique location of the valley erases outside auditory input. The noise of people, cars, and leaf-blowers are absent in the hush. The hush silences any hurried thoughts I brought with me on the hike. In the hush, I get in touch with the deeper and more important realities of life.
Each of these places, a dark night sky, a dry desert, deserted city streets, or the hushed silence of a secluded valley, fill me in a beautifully strange way. What I sense is Heaven’s nearness – a Kingdom closer than we realize. Some have called these locations “thin places.” A thin place is where the distance between the spiritual and natural realms narrow and we see and hear things not considered in the normal routines of life.
Discovering these empty and thinned places is important to the health of our soul because they remind us that being emptied is the preparation for being filled. We need to find empty places and safe relationships that allow us to occasionally pour out the content of our lives to see if what we are carrying is from God or not. These places of safe solitude help us empty out things that pollute our thinking and make us fearful and faithless.
An empty place also gives us a sense of peace in its solitude and provides us with a reminder that life is not always about productivity, activity or trying to fill our experiences with anything beyond the experience itself. In these places, we can be still and know what is not realized elsewhere.