Last week, we were all in awe as we saw images of a new planet being born: PDS 70, the new baby in the solar system. It was incredible to see the world focused on our God, still at work on His world, creatively honing and adding, when often all we see are the things taken away. And I celebrate the security of knowing that God planned that planet all along. Literally, God spun a new planet out of the galactic gas and dust of the universe. Just as he formed everything in the beginning. Just as He has continued to create everything throughout time.
Perhaps what struck me most was how the planet formed and grew in a disc surrounding a young star. Using the world’s largest telescope, researchers focused in on this new planet emerging from a hole carved out of the gas and dust. Out of a hole, a new creation. And again, I thought of saudade.
Like all of us, living my life seems to leave holes that hurt. I have become aware of saudade as I launch children from the nest and as I remain here to continue with heart failure. The strange ache we welcome to remember what’s missing. Certainly all of human existence is full of this strange presence of absence. It most vividly affects our relationships with the ones we love, because we will eventually lose all of them. The only relationship that can last forever is one we choose with the Eternal God.
And herein lies the key to dealing with that emptiness that life carves into our souls, the tinny hollowness that we try to fill with everything we can get our hands on. Our good God has had a plan to fill it from the beginning. When the Spirit first enters our hearts as believers, we are changed. Just as PDS 70 was born of that galactic hole, the hole in our hearts becomes the birthplace of a new creation.
In a second letter to his fellow believers in Corinth, Paul lets us in on even more good news: He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. God sent us the Holy Spirit to help fill that God-shaped vacuum until we can see and know Him fully in Heaven.
The Spirit will, must, get in our heads to teach us and to help us remember, but also He gets into our hearts. In fact, He takes up permanent residence in the hearts of believers. And from there, the Spirit grows and manifests the fruits and tools to survive this life.
My dad is a chemist. I am not. But I do remember that carbon dioxide gas is tasteless, odorless, colorless, and is used in soda and dry ice. It is the difference between water with lemon and La Croix. It is something a little mysterious to me. And it shares some characteristics with the vaporous Holy Spirit.
Just as a gas expands and fills in whatever empty space there is, the Spirit fills the void in our hearts until the full realization of God is complete in Eternity. As long as we keep seeking Him, He keeps expanding, and that hole keeps shrinking. And we, as a new creation, keep growing. That is the promise.
I have lamented about my internal defibrillator. I was determined to improve enough that I would never need one. I have referred to it as evidence of my saudade: the fact that it can and might shock me to restart my weak heart. And part of me is in fear of that every day. But included in that little tape measure size device just under the skin on my left chest is a pacemaker. That pacemaker paces my heart 99% of the time. I depend on it every minute of every day, but sometimes I forget that part because it was born of a hole. The Holy Spirit is like my pacemaker. Quietly, mysteriously, going about His business, filling me up, making me new. Right in the middle of the shadowy void I feel every day.
In a very real way, we all suffer from saudade, as we travel through this life: trees fall, marriages fail, health falters, children fly. But also, children become responsible adults, challenges are conquered, and new planets are formed. Often, out of what looks like a hole to us, where dust-born man and Spirit mingle, something new is born.