August 21, 2020

Guest Column / Richard Etienne

Void in your life can be filled by listening to God

Richard EtienneI make special efforts to listen to those around me. I try to not only hear their words, but also the entire message that they are trying to communicate.

And sometimes I watch television shows where people obsess about what they “need” in their “home of their dreams.”

I hear people in my life talk about cars with all the “bells and whistles.” I overhear conversations about lawn furniture, umbrellas, area rugs … the list goes on and on.

I have a neighbor who often says, “That is such a first-world problem!”

Why do we “need” so many things to make us happy? Is it possible that God has placed this empty space of desire within each of us that can only be filled by seeking his love?

I wonder why we so often attempt to fill it with so many other activities and things. For some time, I have wanted to write a country song with the refrain, “I’m filling the hole in my soul with stuff!” (Catchy, isn’t it?)

I believe that God has placed a small “kernel” inside of each of us that many theologians refer to as our “soul.” I believe it is this kernel that helps us instinctively know what is right and wrong. (Why do we wrestle with our own conscience at times unless it comes from a place deep within that stirs us—the same place that tells us, “That is wrong!”)

It is this kernel that gives a person that “empty” space that can ultimately only be filled by seeking a relationship with God, and by extension, loving one’s neighbor.

Take just a moment and reflect on your life: what is currently at the top of your material “want” list? What are you currently wrestling with in your own conscience? What is the root issue that forces you to “wrestle” with your conscience that you “know” is right?

As you reflect, what have you done to try to fill the void at times in your life? Have you taken these core struggles to God in prayer yet?

In Scripture we read, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (Jn 15:5). How long will a branch live if it is pruned from the main vine and thrown on to the ground?

Why do we sometimes imagine that a person can survive, much less thrive, if removed from the life-giving vine that our faith tells us is Jesus the Christ?

What can I do today—right now—to make space in my busy schedule to listen to what God wants for me? Who is the only One who ultimately fills those voids?

(Richard Etienne is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh, Ind., in the Evansville Diocese.)

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