Filling Up the Emptiness

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"Filling up the emptiness" by Amanda Woodiel (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: By Mara Conan (2017), Unsplash.com, CC0/PD

I drove into the bank parking lot and sat for a few minutes, listening to Fr. Riccardo discuss the seven deadly sins on the car radio. I was waiting for him to get to gluttony. Those of you who have been reading my posts on this site for a while know that gluttony is a subject I come to again and again. It’s not usually about the quantity of food I eat, but about the motivation behind eating (sorrow, joy, discouragement, you name it). I was a little disappointed; after having examined the previous five sins fairly thoroughly, all Fr. Riccardo said was that gluttony is trying to fill an emptiness that can only be filled with God’s love.

I thought, “Well, that doesn’t seem like me,” did my business at the bank, and drove away.

As I was driving, this thought popped into my head: “It’s as though you have a mangled appendage you refuse to acknowledge, dragging it around with you like it’s not there.” Do you understand what I mean when I say that this kind of thought made me groan? It means God is wanting to heal — but I must first face the pain.

Later that night, I owned up to it. “All right, God. What do you want me to see?” And very quickly I saw that in my family of origin I did not feel loved: actually, I felt completely unloved by three out of four family members, and the last one I felt would love me only if I performed well. (Boy, did I learn how to perform. Valedictorian. Class president. Theater. Voice lessons.) I’m not saying that how I felt was actually the case. What matters is that I internalized my perception that I was unloved and unlovable.

And then somehow, my thoughts were quickly led to the topic of examination of conscience. I couldn’t tell you the connection between the two beforehand, but in that moment I was inspired to ask myself, “Why don’t I ever want to do an examination of conscience?”

The answer came equally quickly. Because then I will know I have not performed … and then I will know I am not loved.

Does it break your heart? It does mine. I know in my head that God loves us unconditionally, but I don’t know it in my bones yet — not enough to face the reality of my sin on a daily basis.

If this post ended there, it would be pretty depressing. However, read on, because there is, in fact, Good News!

There is a remedy for anyone who has ever felt unloved by family (whether by family of origin or by a spouse). The cure is the new family Jesus came to establish. God is not just a deity out there to be appeased. No, in stark contrast to every other “god” cultures have worshipped throughout the centuries, our God — the true God — desires to be known as our Father, as Jesus revealed to us when he taught us to pray Abba, Daddy. As Jesus hung on the cross, he gave to us a new mother too, Mary. As for our spouse, we have none other than Jesus himself, who is the bridegroom to the Church — and who is the Church but the people of God?

So no matter what family you hail from, you do, in fact, have a Father who loves you unconditionally (how could He prove it more than by seeking us, while we were yet sinners, to woo us back to Him)? You do, in fact, have a mother who loves you and who prays for you in the presence of God. You do, in fact, have brothers and sisters (the saints) who love you, rooting for you and interceding for you. You do, in fact, have a spouse who cherishes you to the point of dying for you — Jesus Christ Himself — who gave His mortal body for you and still gives you His very body and blood to you daily in the Eucharist.

If we look to our health and happiness in anything other than God, we will be gravely disappointed. This includes our families. Yes, God designed them to be icons of the Holy Trinity, but along with original sin came dysfunctional families.

This Good News of a restored Family allows us to love our own families freely. Relieved of the burden of filling our cravings for love and acceptance, we are able to see our family members as they are, have compassion on them, and love them regardless–for we have a heavenly family that loves us perfectly.

Fasting 101 was about re-gaining control over food.  Fasting 102 was fasting as intercessory prayer. Fasting 201, let’s say, is an act of admission that food can’t fill up my emptiness and never will. It is an act of faith that God’s love — and God’s love alone — can.


Copyright 2019 Amanda Woodiel

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About Author

Amanda Woodiel is a Catholic convert, a mother to five children ages 9 to 1, a slipshod housekeeper, an enamored wife, and a “good enough” homeschooler who happens to believe that the circumstances of her life--both good and bad--are pregnant with grace. Read more of her thoughts on faith and motherhood at In a Place of Grace and at Amazing Catechists.

3 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this post and am glad that you linked back to your earlier posts. It is nice to see growth over time – how teaching points build upon each other, so I am going to read those two next. Thank you for sharing parts of your journey.

  2. Hi Amanda, One more thought that I didn’t think of until I was reading your other two posts. You might like a series of 4 videos that was on Ascension’s videos from the CFRs. The 4 were called: Spiritual Reasons for Fasting, Why Should Christians Fast?, Catholic Fasting, and How Diet Affects the Spiritual Life.
    https://media.ascensionpress.com/category/ascension-presents/cfrs/

    …and I didn’t see how to comment on your personal blog, but I loved this part of your Fasting 101 post because it can apply to many different lessons we learn in life. I have thought of it as whispers that slowly come to fruition over time. I appreciated how you captured the concept, “So often the noble percolates in my head, and it takes months (maybe even years!) to materialize in my everyday life. But this time, thanks to several different threads coming together and by God’s grace […]”

    • Amanda, thank you for passing along that recommendation! I haven’t researched *anything* about fasting other than reading about it in the Bible and will be very glad to look at a Catholic resource. Yes, I get tired that my road to holiness is so.slow…but I think that’s part of the lesson, isn’t it? Although it literally takes me years to get the message, I suppose if I got it very quickly, I would puff up. God is merciful! I just love the imagery of God’s whispers; it reminds me of Elijah on the mountain.

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