Blogs, new artwork, and other updates from sculptor Douglas W. Merkey

Thought-provoking blogs, links, new artwork and other updates from sculptor Douglas W. Merkey.

The Blessed Canvas of Emptiness

Here's a contra-cultural, even a contra-"Churchianity"* thought: embrace God's desire to create beauty on the canvas of our emptiness and brokenness. By consequence, this means that we must embrace our emptiness and brokenness, not run from it or fill it up with lesser things (i.e., anything not God) This idea is creatively reflected in Sidewalk Prophets' song, "Keep Making Me." See more thoughts below the video.

I love Henri Nouwen's thoughts on  this basic idea, framed around the term "horror vacui."

We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our "horror vacui," our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy - fill up - every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.

What would it be like, as a Christian in general and as an artist in particular, to experience the answer to Nouwen's lament in what might be called a “longing vacui” or a “love vacui”? What would it be like to experience a love and longing for empty spaces as those blessed, clean, and vacant canvases upon which God can and does paint masterpieces in our lives beyond our wildest comprehension? As an artist, some of my most compelling, meaning-full, and beauty-full works have come as a result of times of deep emptiness and brokenness. It is these kinds of pieces that tend to touch the hearts of those who see my work most deeply, and for that I am supremely thankful. And in this thankfulness, I pray the lyrics of the song “Make Me Broken” by Sidewalk Prophets.

Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I’m so calloused
And now I can’t feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken

Make me empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty

‘Til you are my one desire
‘Til you are my one true love
‘Til you are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

Make me lonely
So I can be yours
‘Til I want no one
More than You, lord
‘Cause in the darkness
I know you will hold me
Make me lonely

‘Til you are my one desire
‘Til you are my one true love
‘Til you are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

‘Til you are my one desire
‘Til you are my one true love
‘Til you are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making
I know you keep making
Lord, please keep making me

* "Churchianity" is my humble term of lament for the multifaceted modern American aberration of biblical Christianity. By this term, I mean NO disrespect to The Church. She is Christ's Bride, made beautiful by His grace in the gospel! I am, in fact, part of this Church, so I bring my own aberrations into Her, unfortunately. As regards this posting, one major lament concerning Evangelical "Churchianity" is its penchant for filling up every moment with something. Consider your average Evangelical public worship service. It's filled with constant motion and sound. More than 20 seconds of silence in a worship service tends to make your average Evangelical churchgoer squirm! Though I'm sure this is not intentionally malicious on the part of worship planners and leaders, we must consider how this constant motion and sound in public worship - that is, a lack of "emptiness" - cultivates Spinoza's idea of "horror vacui" in us as worshipers. In contrast, biblical Christianity leaves much room for empty spaces, quietness, solitude, and contemplation in both the private and public life of the Christian. This is something that the Roman Catholic tradition seems to happily understand and which is very refreshing to me personally as I've taken several trips to monasteries and abbeys for retreat and quietness.

Doug MerkeyComment