VACANCY is a word that tourists needing a place to stay like to see on a motel sign. But that's about the only kind of vacancy most people would find desirable. Empty buildings, vacant lots, bare shelves, hardly are drawing cards in a community. And even natural open spaces in the countryside can bring on feelings of desolation for some people. I used to feel that way. I grew up in a rural area next door to a farm. We were a large family, and though I loved ice-skating on our pond and walking in the woods and generally enjoyed the expanse of nature virtually at our doorstep, I also often felt isolated. As I became more conscious of this, during my teen years especially, I thought the solution lay in getting away -- moving to a city, so I could be ``where the action'' was.
As it happened I did attend college in a city. And college life was brimming over with activities. But the desolate feelings persisted, especially when I returned to my parents' home or, for that matter, even when I drove through a rural area.
Then one time as I was traveling to see my parents, I began to notice how tied those old feelings were to the familiar but unwelcome stretches of landscape all around me. By this time my study of Christian Science had brought me to a point where I had realized that there is no difficulty, no matter how thick with history, that doesn't have its solution in a better understanding of God. And I started to think about the God-given dominion Christ Jesus consistently demonstrated in his life.
Regardless of the physical environment in which he found himself -- whether confronting temptation in the wilderness or praying in ``a solitary place'' or teaching and healing in a crowded courtyard of Jerusalem -- there wasn't a place Jesus fled from in fear. Nor, by contrast, was there any one location he called home. But his home was perfectly settled and unchanging. He dwelt in thought with God -- persistently conscious of the reality of good, of Life, and of Love. He knew that there wasn't a place God's presence does not fill; that God was with him and he with God. He said to others, as John's Gospel records, ``I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.'' And Jesus' confidence in this spiritual fact gave him such freedom in living that even a so-called final place -- the tomb -- was unable to crush out the Christ-spirit or silence the Christ message of God's kingdom at hand.
As I drove along, I began to realize that the emptiness I had for years been trying to shove away was actually a mental barrenness that I needed to be awakened from -- a subtle but very definite denial of God's ever-presence. I needed to deny the suggestion that God's love could be missing or somehow unfeelable to His child.
A primarily physical sense of ourselves -- and, more fundamentally, a limited sense of God -- is what causes us to think of places in material terms, as inherently desolate, as ``God-forsaken.'' But because God is infinite Spirit and Love, there is simply no room for anything else. There is no room for emptiness. As Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, reasons: ``God being everywhere and all-inclusive, how can He be absent or suggest the absence of omnipresence and omnipotence? How can there be more than all?'' God's presence and love therefore can never be missing or out of reach. And so no matter how dark things may seem or how alone we may feel, no sense of isolation has the power to divorce us from God's fullness or to keep us from feeling His care.
My heart felt new by the time I pulled into the driveway of my parents' home. For the first time in years I really relished the quiet -- and the beauty -- I found there. The place truly looked lovely to me, and I honestly didn't want to leave when it came time to go.
How full life is and feels depends directly on how willing we are to dispute whatever would tell us that life is in one place but not another, that good shifts around, or that there are blank space and desolate places in God's universe. We can know the permanence of God's love and we can know God. It is our Father-Mother's ever-presence that guarantees both to us. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.
BIBLE VERSE The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.... And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness.... And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Isaiah 35:1, 2, 7, 8, 10