Running on Empty

March 21st, 2022 by Barb Buffington

Have you ever looked down at your gas gauge and thought, Uh oh! The orange light is on and looks like the tank is on Empty!

gas gauge

Moving along on fumes to get the gas station usually works, but there was one time (that I will admit) when Carl and I did indeed run out of gas and had to walk home. 

Granted, it was just about a mile walk, but when you’re wearing heels and it’s a hot Florida summer night, that can be a long walk! An empty gas tank is an easy “empty” to fix – go get the gas can, fill the tank, and you are back in business.

Personal emptiness is so much more difficult than an empty gas tank.

running on empty-1

Feeling Emptiness

There are so many levels of empty – we all know that!  One of the first times I remember feeling tremendously lonely and empty was when I was in 7th grade and awoke one morning to find my mother had been taken away by ambulance in the middle of the night to the hospital where she stayed for several weeks, actually months, or at least it seemed like it; it seemed like forever to me. 

hospital bed

My dad was dealing with 7 children (or trying to), working, worrying about my mom, and trying to hold our household together. 

Seventh grade and being 13 is challenging in the best of times, but not having my mom around made going to school downright hard, and I felt lonely and sad.  Well, though it was touch and go for a good while, she eventually came home, got well, and life went back to normal, which made me feel whole again. I realize there is not always a happy ending like that, but I was happy that I was fortunate enough to have her around until my mid 40’s.

Another Whole Level of Emptiness 

And then, there is another whole level of emptiness, which I experienced when AJ, our son, was killed 17 years ago at the age of 25.

The moment we heard that AJ had died at the scene of the automobile accident, I literally felt the blood drain from my body and had the sense I had been gutted and my whole being was in agony.

Totally empty.

And, in the days following, it got even worse, though it didn’t seem it could, as I watched my firstborn son and my daughter grieve the loss of their best friend and brother, my infant grandson fight for his life, my daughter in law a becoming a widow at the age of 20, and my husband and I experiencing the earth-shattering loss of one of our dear children – well, that hollowness overtook all of the space within me, and I felt as if I was being swallowed up, all of me.

That’s Empty, and one that too many of my friends also know. 

hollowness overtook all of the space within me, and I felt as if I was being swallowed up, all of me. That’s Empty

He Knows About Emptiness

We have a God who knows our pain. He poured Himself out in Jesus and had to watch His son suffer and die in a most horrific way.  Every Sunday in our Eucharistic prayer we hear the words that our Almighty God gave his only son Jesus to suffer death upon the cross – He emptied himself for us all.  Total sacrifice, total giving; the ultimate Emptiness – the darkest day in history.

cross

When Empty Was Good

And then…there is THE ONE EMPTY that gives us all-sustaining hope, and THE ONE EMPTY that made everything good and full and whole and right again.

When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome went with spices to anoint Jesus’ body on the first day of the week after he had been crucified, they were bewildered, alarmed, afraid, and trembling when they saw the tomb was EMPTY! 

Yet, this EMPTY was the greatest thing in the world, as they would come to know! The BEST NEWS EVER! He had Risen indeed!  The empty tomb brought LIFE, fulfillment, peace, joy, and eternal life for us all! That is when Empty was GOOD and Empty was GOD!

The empty tomb brought LIFE, fulfillment, peace, joy, and eternal life for us all! That is when Empty was GOOD and Empty was GOD!

Because of the Good Empty

Is there still an empty place in my heart for my son as I walk on in this earthly life? You bet – some days my heart still aches more than others and I think often about how our lives would be if AJ was still living among us. The pain is still present. 

And I miss family members and friends who have passed on, but I live knowing in the deepest part of my being that because of the GOOD EMPTY, our walk on this earth is not the last word, and the day is coming when my heart will be filled to overflowing again and there will be no more empty! That is the GOOD NEWS!

because of the GOOD EMPTY, our walk on this earth is not the last word, and the day is coming when my heart will be filled to overflowing again and th

By the way, if you see Carl and me walking along the road, well, we probably forgot to look down at the gas gauge again – I don’t wear heels anymore, so give us a smile, a wave, and maybe even a ride to the closest gas station.

Blessings as you continue your journey through Lent, and on to the empty tomb on Easter you can say, Alleluia, HE IS RISEN INDEED! And, my heart is FULL!

Barb

Do you feel like you are running on empty? Or is there a time in your life when this has felt true? What do you think about emptiness? Let me know in the comments below!

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About this author:

Barb Buffington

Barb Buffington

Barb has spent her whole adult life in ministry--from her own family, to teaching kids with special needs, to working for a Christian conference center. She and her husband, Bishop Carl Buffington, live in Winter Springs with Sammy, their exuberant and adorable golden retriever.

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