fullMy life is full of relationships and demands. My calendar is full of appointments and deadlines. My house is full of stuff. I have filled my life, my time, and my heart with all sorts of things that take up space and time. Some are very important; some just take my energy with minimal return. I can have my “hands full”, a full day, or a heart filled with whatever I am consumed by that day.

How can I be so busy, have so many demands, and still feel so empty sometimes? Why is it when I ask God to fill me with his Spirit, sometimes it feels like He’s ignoring me? I’m doing everything I know to do to obey Him and honor my obligations and responsibilities, and I don’t always feel fulfilled.

I suspect that I’m the problem. I am a task oriented person. I can fill every empty space on my calendar and in my heart in dozens of different ways. And then I wonder, why don’t I feel fulfilled? I’m not lazy. I’m doing all the stuff I think is right; why doesn’t it seem to work? I ask God to fill me with peace, but I refuse to let go of the busyness. I ask God to fill me with compassion, but I’m still clinging to pride and nurturing judgmentalism. I ask God to fill me with joy, but I’m still focused on the things that irritate me. Perhaps God can’t fill me with what I need because I’m so full of myself.

The difference between having what the world describes as a “full” life and being fulfilled is the source of the filling. In Luke 14 Jesus told a parable of a man who gave a feast, but those he invited had lives that were too full to attend. They were busy; they had responsibilities and relationships that were more important than attending the feast. So the man sent his servant to invite people who were willing to make space for that feast, who were willing to come and fill themselves at his table. If God is the man giving the feast and Jesus is the servant issuing the invitation, that makes us the ones receiving the invitation. We can choose to fill our time with our stuff and our activity, or we can feast on what God prepares for us.

Filling can be an active verb. I can fill my life, my calendar, and my heart with countless things. I can choose to be filled with joy or hope or pride or anger. But then when I seek God, I’ve left him no room to fill me with anything else. God has a history of filling his people. He filled oil jars and stomachs; He filled mouths with songs and His word; He filled the Tabernacle and the Temple with the manifestation of his presence; He filled his disciples with His Spirit.

But filling can also be a passive verb. An empty glass can be filled by someone thirsty in the same way an empty heart can be filled by God. Attempting to fill an empty heart with material possessions or busyness or relationships will always create only temporary relief. But things, activity, and people will always, ultimately disappoint us. We cannot expect them to fill the spaces that are meant to be filled by a relationship with God.

Being filled is nearly always a matter of choice. I can fill my glass with water or Dr. Pepper or fruit juice. I can fill my life with my best efforts and intentions. Or, I can make space for God to fill me with what will ultimately fulfill me.

Perhaps what stands between your full life and fulfillment for your soul is your decision to give God an empty place in your heart, on your calendar. What would happen if you emptied yourself of expectations and control and allowed God to do a new thing? If your self-satisfaction was rooted in understanding how much God loves you, rather than in measuring your own accomplishment? If you joy came from within, rather than being contingent on the attitudes of others?

Fulfilled does not equal busy; having demands on your time and attention will not fill your soul. You were created for relationship with God. Make space for Him. You will find that being filled with His Spirit is much more fulfilling than anything you can accomplish on your own.