PEOPLE WHO HOLD SPACE WILL HEAL THE CHURCH

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When I married my husband, he’d just cut off his dreads and was an avid rock climber. He married me– a girl from a small town, comfortable in everything that I knew, in everything that I’d been and was going to be.

As Johnny Cash says, we got married in a fever, and before we knew exactly what we’d done, we were home from our honeymoon, beginning the long journey toward figuring out who we were–together.

When he married me, he loved who I was, but also saw who I could one day become, and he held that vision steady. And it wasn’t a vision for what he thought I was supposed to be, but a vision still unknown to him, held by the mystery of God.

He took me climbing in one of his favorite spots not long after we married. I had a dislike of nature, but was idealistic about it, and there was abounding irony in the fact that I’d married someone like him.

He took me to a place called Lincoln Lake, a climbing spot in Arkansas that had been home to him for a long time.

All that I remember thinking is that the lake water was really brown and there were a lot of bugs. I couldn’t see then the way I see now.

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Nine years later, close to our anniversary, we went back there. He took me to the top of the rocks to set up the climbing rope, and I sat and drank my coffee. There were large black ants crawling across my feet and the humidity in the air was rising little by little.

“It’s beautiful here,” I said.

“I didn’t appreciate it before.” I looked back with tears in my eyes.

“I know,” he said.

There seems to be a difference between being with someone to change them and being with someone as you hold space for them to change.

My husband has always held space for me.

He’s held space for me to grow up from the 19 year old who married him.

He’s held space for me to learn motherhood.

He’s held space for me to ask questions in my faith.

He’s held space for me to walk into my Native American culture without fear.

In holding space, he has loved me.

And he continues to hold space for who I’ll become tomorrow.

I’m convinced that space holding people are the ones who will heal the church.

They are the ones who bring justice and shalom, because they are patient people who hold onto a long-off vision. We need them in our churches, because they will not force change. They will not sit in pews and bear judgment over the people around them, but they will sit with those people and wait for God to show them the way.

The church has very publicly become a place that tries to manage others, and it often leaves people wounded. It wounds the church by distorting who the church should really be, and it wounds individuals in the church by making them feel like they aren’t good enough for Jesus.

So we need to learn to hold space.

Like my husband saw in me, we need to see what is good in each other, to hold onto the longer vision that God holds for each of us, and we need to wait.

I did not understand as a 19 year old who I was marrying or who I was. And in the process of learning, I needed someone who could be gentle yet steady with me, just as God is gentle and steady.

People like my husband, who hold space, show the unique character of God in a way that we are all hungry for.

So let’s practice holding space instead of holding one another hostage to our own ideals.

Let’s remember that God has an individual vision for each of us, and it’s worth waiting for.

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As I climbed up the rocks that morning, I felt like I was communing with a space of the world that I’d never known existed before. I felt drawn in by my inability to know exactly where to put my foot or my hands, but that unknowing gave me energy to try anyway, like I was trusting this thing that was calling me back to God.

And on the one climb when I reached the top, I turned around and scanned the treetops with my eyes. I looked down at the brown water and across the horizon of that Arkansas day and thought, “I am so glad I am alive.”

If we hold space for each other, we learn how to truly be alive with one another, as we cast off judgment and wait for the grace of God to journey with us into unknown and sacred places.

And my friends, it’s absolutely worth the wait.

 

38 thoughts on “PEOPLE WHO HOLD SPACE WILL HEAL THE CHURCH

    • Ms. Curtice shared a word direct from God’s own heart,…and I an convicted of impatience and discouragement with my children. This lesson of agape love reasonates with my spirit, but my soul is tired, irritable and battered by the constant’ push-back’. I want to push back, too! But that does not honor God. Lord help me to humbly submit to Your will and find a fresh, hopeful breath between a rock and a hard place.

  1. I sat in service this morning, hearing loud and long about who I wasn’t and what I’m not, and left feeling broken and wounded. No words or encouragement or edification. I am glad to read this tonight. There really aren’t any coincidences in God’s economy are there? I needed to find these soothing words and sit and remember with thankfulness those who over the years have saved place for me. I will strive to save place for others, even those who would beat me up……….. and wait for that beautiful “becoming”…… as God draws them into His presence and in that position they are evermore like Him. Thank You.

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  3. What a cool concept. Imagine if we adopted it not only in our spiritual lives but in our political / civic discourse…to hold the space for cooperation and mutual respect, which is surely part of the divine design for society.

  4. You articulated such a beautiful message of who God is and who we should be. Thank you. I loved your gentleness in saying how not to judge, for us to be patient and represent Jesus.

  5. Some very nice thoughts here Kaitlin, and the idea of people who can ‘hold space’ for others is a valuable one, but I’m not sure there is a straightforward ‘read across’ from nuclear family life to church life. In a family everyone is held together by bonds of blood and kinship, and everyone is giving and taking all the time. However in church many people experience their voice and experience not being listened to, so in that context what does holding the space mean? It would be nice if there was someone to hold the space for us but it does imply a church community which facilitates and accepts lots of different voices and opinions in the first place, dies it not.

  6. As a Spiritual Director who has spent the past 15 years holding space in the church and for individuals and groups, I am so touched by your post. Thank you for describing the idea of holding space in such a beautiful and articulate way. And what a blessing for you that your husband gifts you in this way!

      • There’s a reason church life and marriage are referenced! I fear too often this way of being isn’t “flashy” enough or results driven enough and therefore it’s ignored. I loved the way you brought such value to holding space!

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  10. Hi Kaitlin,

    My Pastor shared this with me in a meeting we had. I am transgendered, and my church — well there’s a lot there who aren’t ok with me. My Pastor has promised to protect me from as much pain as possible, but he can’t from all of it. I loved the article, you really moved me, and encourage me to hold space for others to realize that I love Christ as much as they do, and I just want to serve as they do. I’d love to share my own story with you, if you like you can read it here.

    http://theoldadventuresofthenewkristine.blogspot.com/2015/04/my-story.html

    Thank you for giving me hope of a better tomorrow, when we see Dr. King’s dream realized in the church.


    Traci Kristine

    • Traci, thank you for sharing your story. Please tell your pastor how grateful I am for pastors who care for their people through everything. Your journey is incredible– hard but beautiful. I see God in it, and want you to know that you are not alone. I’m so glad you found my words and I pray they continue to speak to you!

      • Thank you Kaitlin. I’ll let him know tomorrow. It’s hard being the first, being a pioneer, but even with all of the pain and uncertainty, I’m honored God chose me for this, and beyond humbled.

  11. Love this! And isn’t this exactly what God does for us…hold space…because He sees who we are becoming. He is patient as He sees the shepherd boy become a king….and you and I become all He has destined us to be.

    Oh for more of this in our world, in our homes, and in our hearts.

  12. I think we want people to realise we’ve changed from what we used to be, but we don’t think through what it is to let them change too. Holding space is the opposite of that. It expects change and looks forward to it and is patient to wait.

    what a profoundly engaging and encouraging article. Love it. Thanks Kaitlin

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