What is your life becoming? The COVID pandemic and accompanying circumstances altered life for many of us. Is your life heading to a different place now than it was a few months ago?
It is June 25, 2020. I am sitting on the tiny balcony of my first real apartment, watching the sun set over Lookout Mountain. In my lap I hold the canvas for my next painting. But this canvas is not blank. It is an old, inexpensive, commercially produced print depicting a balloon floating away and the words, “Let it go.” I cover it in white primer. Then it hits me. This still mostly empty apartment I’ve just moved into and this freshly primed canvas are fitting metaphors. I have let a lot of things go. There is a lot of empty space in my apartment, on this canvas, in my life. I am transitioning into something new, but I don’t quite know what yet.
Deconstructing old models
In my sophomore year of college leading up to the pandemic, my life was very full: full of people, loving relationships, murals, unexpected opportunities, and adventures. However, I found that they were somehow unsatisfying. They could not sustain me or fill me up. I had this constant feeling of emptiness even though my outward reality said otherwise. Whenever I went in to paint murals late at night the empty feeling followed me into the building. Even as I filled blank walls with vibrant colors, deep down I was trying to paint my faded heart. I tried to fill the emptiness by accomplishing things and going places.
College thus far had been a period of spiritual deconstruction. I turned away from the Christian beliefs that I was raised with, and sought out answers that I felt like the church couldn’t give. By the start of my sophomore year I identified as an agnostic, but was still not content with where I was with my spiritual life or the nagging unfulfillment.
But then there was COVID-19 and suddenly there was no more accomplishing things or going places. Instead there was lots of letting go. A relationship ended. My creative projects got postponed. My classes went online. My summer work plans got canceled. Communities that I wanted to be a part of dissolved. And I had to move back home.
Last week, I found out that someone I grew up with overdosed and died. Even though I wasn’t close to her, it disturbed me to see the pictures people were posting of us standing beside each other as little kids. It upset me partly because of how much I relate to her. I wonder if she was struggling with emptiness too.
I wonder if God can speak to this emptiness.
At home in the empty space of lockdown I began to develop a deeper love for my family, friends and even for myself. I used the blank time and space to examine my habits and negative thinking. Instead of racing around, trying to win the affection and approval of others I found that God doesn’t require me to earn love.
I think that God is using the emptiness: the loss of my dreams for my Junior year of college and the uncertainty of what comes next. I think that God brought good out of some pretty terrible circumstances. I believe God used it as an opportunity to help me pause, reflect, and start over. I think God saw the brokenness in my life and wanted to mend it; God saw the emptiness and wanted to fill it. Maybe what I’ve been needing all this time is to reconcile with God.
Now it’s July 8th, and I am contemplating what I will paint on this freshly primed canvas. I am sketching my apartment building. Throughout all the lost dreams of what never came to be, this apartment was a gift from God. God gave me this space to put down new roots. It is a space where I can grow into who I was designed to be. I don’t know what my next step is going to be, but I have to remind myself even when it is hard, even when I don’t entirely believe it, there is a God out there who loves me, a God who made me in beautiful light, a God who wants me to pursue a life of passion, a God who wants me to grow strong on my own, but who is ever and always with me.
Madison Myers is a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.