To fill a Gap —

by Elouise

Here a short poem from Emily Dickinson. Appropriate, I think, for the second Sunday in Advent. My personal response follows.

To fill a Gap
Insert the Thing that caused it –
Block it up
With Other – and ‘twill yawn the more –
You cannot solder an Abyss
With Air.

c. 1862

Emily Dickinson Poems, Edited by Brenda Hillman
Shambhala Pocket Classics, Shambhala 1995

Irreplaceable loss. The Gap can’t be disguised, no matter how hard you try. Denial magnifies gaping emptiness, draws attention to it. The missing Thing is one of a kind, Irreplaceable.

Emily’s poem reminds me of my vain attempts to ‘make it better.’ Or worse, times when I’ve endured well-meaning efforts to ‘make me better’ – through distractions, happy talk, or reminders that things could be worse.

It also reminds me of times I used silence to hide Gaps I caused by my regrettable behavior. It’s easier to accept Emily’s words when it comes to Gaps left by the death of family members and friends, or by relational issues outside my control.

Early on, as described in the beginning of Hebrew Scripture, Gaps open up between the Creator and human beings. Trust is damaged, along with ability to recognize or live in Truth consistently with each other and with this world, our habitat.

We’re born into a world marked by innumerable Gaps. Relational gaps distance us from each other. We can’t escape them. No one is left unscathed, whether directly at fault or not. They damage each of us, from birth until death.

The Gaps can’t be fixed with Air or substitutes for what was lost. No amount of distraction or pretense can cover them up. What’s missing is gone.

Sometimes it feels hopeless. As though nothing will ever change. Nonetheless, I believe that’s why we celebrate Advent. First, so we can reflect on the Gaps, our losses. Acknowledge and grieve them without shame or humiliation.

And then there’s the other side of Advent, anticipating the arrival of Someone who can lead us to into a different phase of our lives. A Stranger who can step into our aching places and bring life in the presence of death. No hocus pocus, just a man called Jesus who lived with and for us, accepts us as we are, and shines the light of Truth into our gaping losses, regrets, and whatever else we wish we could take back.

We can’t take back our words, deeds and attitudes. We can, however, let them sharpen our ability to walk alongside others, following Jesus, without trying to pretend Gaps don’t exist. Or aren’t really that painful or destructive.

I pray you’ll find Sabbath rest on this second Sunday in Advent.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 December 2016
Photo credit: DAFraser, December 2014