At that point, we have to accept our present reality. In my case, I had to tell myself, "I am jobless, the semester begins soon, and I barely have enough money to pay for my first class." But we also have to accept that we have no earthly hope of moving forward. When we get to the point where "I'm at the end of my rope" becomes "There is absolutely nothing I can do to make this situation better," we've reached the zero point.
The zero point is not only the point at which we come to the end of ourselves and our strength, but also the point at which we can find a new beginning. It's the point at which our open hands can now willingly receive from God. Brueggemann reminds us that we "believe in a God who can work a real newness at the zero point."
God Fills the Emptiness
God has a track record of bringing something out of nothing. I love how Sally Lloyd-Jones highlights this concept in her retelling of the Creation story in The Jesus Storybook Bible: "In the beginning, there was nothing. Nothing to hear. Nothing to feel. Nothing to see. Only emptiness. And darkness. And … nothing but nothing. But God was there. And God had a wonderful Plan. 'I'll take this emptiness,' God said, 'and I'll fill it up!' "
God wants to take our emptiness and fill it up. He wants to fill us with the hope of the gospel—that death, in all its forms, has been defeated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And God graciously gives us glimpses of that hope every day. Only by passing through death, passing through the zero point, can we find new life.
Treating the zero point as a beginning instead of an end provides us with the courage we need to believe that life exists on the other side of death and disappointment. In that hope, the day after I lost my job, I loaded my car and drove to new student orientation. My husband had encouraged me to go and see what God had for me there. Sure, I spent most of my nearly four-hour drive crying and praying, but I had a new sense of expectation for what God would do in my life in the coming year.
As I stepped onto campus, my heart and my hands were open to receive from God. And God was gracious to me, reaffirming my call to pursue the doctoral program and providing a graduate assistantship that would provide financial support for my studies. A few days later, God also provided a partial-tuition scholarship. But even more, as I began my classes, God provided a deep sense of satisfaction and of experiencing his pleasure and delight. I wonder if I would have been aware and open to receiving such good gifts if I had never reached the zero point.
Meryl Herr is currently pursuing her doctorate in educational studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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