Confronting the Void
April 4, 2017
There are some things that have been on my mind that I want to write about in this blog today as I sit on a train from Trieste to Milan before flying back to Barcelona tomorrow. If you came to read this, hoping you’d see more fun pictures of sunsets over Spain or the truffle covered gnocchi in Italy, then you may be fairly disappointed. I promise the next post will be much more entertaining but, for now, some things have come up that I want to share.
Let me see if I can unpack this a bit…
When I was in Milan last week, I suddenly got the sense that I “wanted to get away for a week.” News flash: I AM away!! I am away from my friends, my love, my career, my home, my family, and every comfort that I created for myself in Denver. When I was in the States, I would get this similar feeling pretty much on a weekly basis. I was always ready to “get away” for the weekend, or striving to plan my next big trip, or finding new ways to get away with Dallas for a random night out of the city. So how is it possible that now, thousands of miles away from everything I know, I’m still struggling with the need to get away?
Since first bringing awareness to this yearning, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time praying and meditating on the significance of it. I’m a long way from having all the answers but I am starting to sense that what I wanted to get away from was a void that seemed to always be lingering in the quiet background of my life. It was a void that was most quickly masked when I was partaking in new adventures; weekend ski trips, off roading to find secluded camp sites, girls’ nights with my closest friends, or golfing at a new course in a different city. Don’t get me wrong, none of those things in and of themselves were wrong. Clearly, I believe that life was meant to be full of adventures like these. The problem started when I began using those experiences as a means of covering up and even avoiding the root issue.
And here is what I finally understood with total clarity this week: wherever you go, there you are. To make it more personal — wherever I go, there I am. And no matter where I go, with me comes this ever present void (that’s a fun catch 22). For so long, I’ve said I wanted to go on this trip to find my purpose in life and to get clarity on what I’m supposed to do and be for the decades to come. At since adventure has always provided me with an escape in the past, I figured that taking the biggest adventure of all would be the quickest and most fool proof way to find permanent fulfillment.
You know what? For the first few weeks it worked brilliantly! New sights, sounds, friends, experiences and cities were food for my soul. They were enough. And then slowly but surely, I found myself once again yearning to get away. No matter how many runs I went on, bars I drank at, people I met, or experiences I logged, it just didn’t feel like enough. Then I started to think about all the things back home that weren’t enough and I cheapened the true value of all that I had in Colorado. And now, that void I uncovered is accompanied by a loneliness that is deep. I knew going into this trip there would be lonely periods and I wasn’t surprised when loneliness first poked up its head. But I think I’d be foolish to disregard this depth of loneliness as a mere side effect of being on the other side of the world from everything and everyone I know.
I even tricked myself into thinking that if I “got away” to Croatia for a week, that suddenly I’d be back to feeling content and fulfilled like when I first began this trip. But it didn’t work. And now, for the first time in my life, I’m forced to acknowledge that perhaps there is something bigger and deeper unfolding here. I’m choosing, finally, to pay attention to it (ugh). I absolutely must stop using distractions as a means to ignore the fundamental piece that must be missing from my life.
So, the big question — what is missing?! I spent some serious time yelling this question to God and was expecting a clear answer. Guess what…I haven’t gotten it yet. I trust that I will. I’ve had glimpses that the answer may in fact be related to my yearning to know and be known by God. I was raised with the belief that a personal relationship with God is possible and for many years I experienced and delighted in that. But then I let life get in the way. And I just kept filling the hole that popped up with the next best thing — a new job with a bigger salary, a crazier adventure, a nicer car, a fuller wardrobe, and so on. Nothing was or ever could be enough.
Now, all those things are gone. And all that’s left is me and far fewer distractions.
So maybe it’s that. Or maybe it’s something else entirely.
I am putting it out there to the world that I’m no longer willing to live a life where I pick things and experiences as a replacement for pure and unrestrained fulfillment. Because as long as I continue to do that, the friendships won’t be enough, relationships will never be enough, the job won’t be enough, and I’ll pass through life just seeking the next adventure. That’s not the life I want to live. Not only will it create constant conflict within my soul, but I’ll leave a wake of damage to the people I care most about by letting them think that they weren’t enough. But that’s just not the case. This is my problem and it’s my responsibility to pay attention and figure it out to the fullest extent possible.
I struggled in deciding whether or not to share these thoughts in my blog. They are personal but I also have to believe I’m not the only one struggling with this yearning and thirst that never feels fully quenched. I know many of you have wondered why I am on this journey around the world and how it all came to be. I hope you’ll see this as one brief snapshot into my thinking and the way my heart and mind are evolving unexpectedly. In one of my earlier blogs, I said that I refuse to let this time be a six month vacation. Well, apparently God was listening and He is making it abundantly clear that we have some work to do.
I’m excited to see where this all ends because I know that things are shifting and changing in good ways. Painful, lonely, and difficult moments will be a part of this journey but I have faith that if I am present in them, it will all be for something and that I’ll walk away from this knowing myself and knowing God like I never have before. I have to believe I will am capable of feeling absolutely whole for the first time in years. I look forward to that moment.