The time I encountered a bear while hiking, empty space mattered.
I froze, calculating the distance between the bear and me, the space I judged I could throw a peanut butter cracker, and the speed at which bears can cross empty space.
When the good samaritans who rescued me drove me further down the mountain in their pickup truck, I was even more thankful for the growing amount of empty space between me and that bear.
Empty space matters when a loved one passes away, leaving behind an unoccupied chair. Everyone notices when the cookie jar is empty. The mom looking at empty shelves to feed her hungry children knows that empty space matters.
Even artists study negative space. It is as much a part of every picture as the focal items. There may be boards that make up the back and the arms of the chair, but there is also empty space beneath and all around it.
Perhaps you have emptiness inside of you that you’ve never been able to fill.
When the Israelites were preparing to leave Egypt, God commanded them to kill a lamb and paint its blood on the lintel and posts of the door. Before that, the lintel was just an empty beam above the opening of the doorway. It was emptiness waiting to be filled.
After the Israelites obeyed, the Lord saw the lamb’s blood and passed over the space that was no longer empty, allowing the firstborn inside to live.
The empty space between us and God seems much greater than just the short span of the lintel. We are sinful. He is holy. We deserve death. He is Life. We await judgment. He has forgiveness. But how to cross? Will He pass over?
The cross fills the gap.
Not only that, but the empty grave proves that death is continually, perpetually being swallowed up by Life. Every emptiness we have ever known can be consumed by the greater emptiness of the fact of Jesus’ empty tomb.
When the Apostle Paul wrote “We are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” he had in mind both the purchase Jesus made to claim us and that growing emptiness between us and the things which once enslaved us.
In Christ, we are riding safely in the opposite direction, thankful for every step of empty space He puts between us and our sin.
Then, we can rejoice with all those who were rescued before us, “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Emptiness has been swallowed by the empty tomb, death by life, sin by forgiveness, and evil by Love. The Great Rescue makes empty full.