“I live in a vacuum that is as lonely as a radio tube when the batteries are dead and there is no current to plug into.” -Ernest Hemingway
It’s been years now since I scrawled that quote on a page in an old journal, but I can still remember how it felt. Aching. Empty. Lonely. Cold.
I’d found the quote in a church, printed on brightly colored paper, surrounded by words promising hope. Words promising that a relationship with Jesus would set me free from Hemingway’s vacuum. And instead of giving me hope, these words terrified me. I already had a relationship with Jesus, but still the nagging emptiness tortured my soul.
I felt so very far from God, trying desperately to close that gap separating my heart from His. Reaching, grasping, hoping for a spark of life to pierce the clouds filling my mind and my heart. Praying and worshiping and ministering, but dying on the inside. Absolutely dying.
“Jesus is the answer!” they said, but I already knew that and still I was trapped in a cold, lonely vacuum with no batteries or current. I didn’t need answers. I needed, desperately, life.
So I tried harder.
I devoured chapter after chapter of the Bible, getting up early and reading its pages before my eyes were really open, searching for life. I prayed, begging God to show me what I had to do to get to Him. I told other people about the hope found in Jesus, about how He offered life more abundantly, about how they could “get saved.” And still I felt as empty as a radio tube with no spark. Absolutely dying.
What if this is as good as it gets? My smile was fake. (I couldn’t help but wonder – if my smile was fake was anyone’s real?) My handshake was fake too. Firm and confident, just the way I’d practiced. I could say all the right words without even thinking, without even hearing them anymore. I could sell you a religion that was failing me. I was terrified. Terrified, and absolutely dying.
I truly believed that Jesus was the answer, that a relationship with Him would give me life more abundantly. I never doubted that. But when you have that, when you have Jesus and the Bible and all the answers and you look in the mirror and are forced to admit to yourself that you’re as lonely as a vacuum tube with no current, then what? I longed for life, abundant life. Something more than words on a page, more than old hymns echoing off the walls of a church. I needed something more than the daily struggle to convince myself that I was alive and free.
And so a prayer started to form deep inside my heart. Deep beneath my systematic theology and my spiritual disciplines and my moral purity, a whispered plea for life. A desire for freedom that would not be silenced. A spark in the vacuum. A stubborn hope.