Empty Vessels and Blank Paper

Once upon a time, a widow was about to lose her 2 children, both sons. The man to whom her dead husband owed money was coming to take them into slavery as payment for the debt. Fortunately, the prophet Elisha was around and the woman cried out to him. “Help me!” He asked her what she had, which was only a little oil. He told her to borrow all the jugs and bowls that she could from neighbors and bring them to her house. Then, she was to lock herself and her sons in their house and pour oil into each borrowed vessel until full. Like magic, the oil continued filling until each and every jug and bowl was filled. Then, the flow of oil stopped. Elisha told her to sell the oil, pay the debts and live on the rest.

This story is from 2 Kings 4:1-7 (Yeah, the Bible)
I don’t want to go all preachy here, but this story is amazing. My pastor has been doing a series called “Empty Vessels” and this is the story he started out with. This morning he touched on the responsibility of the widow to make this happen. It got me thinking about my writing in light of God’s purpose for me.

“Empty” expresses a need; a need in me or a need in the world. I need to create. When I don’t have some kind of creative project or three going on, I’m empty. Creating fills me, and I can give to others. Evidently, God sees a need in the world I can fill with my writing. Maybe one person, maybe thousands, but there’s need. As a person who likes to encourage others, I can meet some needs.

The widow only had a little oil to her name. But she saw it as an asset when asked what she had to bring to the table. What do I have to offer people? Maybe a little wisdom born of experience, or a sense of humor or a different way of looking at something. Arranging some words around an idea that expresses it eloquently. Or hope or “Wow, someone understands.” An entertaining story. Who knows what else.

Today, I saw the blank white pages I fill as empty vessels. I lock myself away with my computer or pen and notebook and fill vessels with ideas and stories, with myself. We creatives pour ourselves into our work. There’s a phrase that writers slit our wrists and bleed onto the page. Maybe melodramatic, but figuratively true.

Empty vessels might also be the needs of the women who will read my books. Maybe something I write will help fill a need, spark some hope, ignite a smile or at least provide a respite from the tyranny of life.

Elisha told the widow to sell the oil. God knows, I’m trying to sell my books. And I’m giving some away, too. It would be awesome to be able to pay off our debts with my profits and live off the rest. Is that God’s plan here? I hope so.

But later on in his message, Pastor Ron said, “What God’s going to do might not look like I want it to.” Hmmm…

If you’re ever in Peoria, AZ on a Sunday morning, stop in at Generation Life Church, Peoria Ave and the 101 Freeway. Guaranteed hugs and a free cup of coffee. Ask for Terry. That’s what I’m known as there.

How can you help fill the empty vessels of other people? What fills your empty vessel?

A note on the word vessel. We all know that a vessel is something that’s built to contain something. It’s a word we don’t use much except maybe “blood vessel” of pertaining to a boar or ship. We don’t say to our kids, “Please wash some vessels so we can have drinks with dinner.” Or “We need to recycle those empty soda vessels.” Or do you?

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