The Truth Empties Me


erin thomas -the truth empties me-2By Erin Thomas | Twitter: @erinthomas_123

Vessels break.

Last month I wrote about how I need God to be absent as much as I need God to be present.

I lied. I take it back. Whatever absence God is playing at, I take it back. I think.

Last Sunday, I flew to Saskatoon for my final seminary course of the school year. Six students, myself included, are taking Indigenous Intercultural Relations—the first course of its kind at Lutheran Theological Seminary Saskatoon. Our professor is a Cree woman and all of us students are white. Some of us have deep relationships in the indigenous community while most of us have a nominal awareness.

All of us travelled to Saskatoon the weekend after the horrific accident that killed 16 members of the Humboldt Broncos ice hockey team. With grief hanging over our heads like a pall, we dove into genocide, residential schools, and the Sixties Scoop. We listened to residential school survivors, began to peel back the faces of racism in white superiority, and participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise. It was a powerful and draining week.

One of our primary textbooks was Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse, which was released this weekend in theatres as a major motion picture. Wagamese’s voice continues to be a powerful storyteller. Saul Indian Horse’s story was simply told and yet expanded the curtains of infinity for me with a kind of tender grief only a survivor of trauma could offer.

I sat in a Saskatoon theatre today watching the movie adaptation. Technically speaking, it was powerfully true to the novel. Needing to portray some of Saul’s experiences on screen, there was more dialogue and sound effects in the movie than in the book. I felt my breath leave my body as I listened to small indigenous voices sing Ave Maria during a Christmas pageant, while a nun discovers the child she has locked away in the Iron Sister has died. They were dressed in sweet little white choir robes, playing angels in the Nativity.

I listened to young voices trying to recite the Apostle’s Creed and watched their bodies be humiliated and hurt for missing a word. I listened to Father Quinney recite the familiar words of the liturgy to a loving God.

I was emptied.

The liturgy seemed like dry ashes being lifted up as love. Children were dying, and we justified all of it at every step. In many communities, we still do.

How am I supposed to want God? How am I supposed to believe there’s a God at all?

I believed once that I was a living vessel for a Living God, filled with a Holy Spirit. That Spirit would give me life, animation, wisdom, Presence… and Absence. During this season of loss, grief, and awareness, I sense profound emptiness—so empty and so dry that it is literally impossible to believe any kind of divine Force exists at all. And in that realization, I look at the vessel and see it become brittle and cracked. If I were to be dropped, I would shatter.

I wrote last month that I need God to be absent as much as I need God to be present. In the long delay of spring, I was astonished at how fast that prayer was answered. After another sleepless night, I crawled out of bed and felt completely bereft. The perception of total abandonment—in the seasons, in the world, in communities, in myself—has not left.

What has dwelled within this vessel from before is now being emptied. What is to come is something I cannot forecast or predict. If the experiences of the mystics are to be trusted, there is indeed a new pouring in that is to come and it will be unlike any experience I have had before.

Until then I must embrace the Absence. I can release myself of trying to put on false bravado, false hope, or false faith. I need not pretend to believe. The church has famously encouraged so many people to pretend to believe, sometimes even using duress.

I need not pretend to be anything or anyone other than honest.


Erin ThomasAbout Erin:

Erin Thomas is a Masters of Divinity student at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, intern hospital chaplain, and reluctant mystic. She’s also blogger, poet, and proud auntie to three adventuresome nephews. You can find her on FacebookTwitter and on her blog, Reluctant Mysticism.