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.

 

Fighting the New Year’s Monster: Climb On

Every year after Christmas, my entire being finds itself in an odd funk, a strange cloud of melancholy.

After the slow and glorious build to Christmas Day, I’m left feeling the dread of What next?

And it wasn’t until yesterday that I could name it, put a face and identity to the monster heckling me at the corner of Old and New, Past and Future.

The Fear Monster hides himself under a dark cloak, but somehow he’s in my head and under my skin before I can even catch a glimpse of him.

He’s there, hovering, and my anxiety rises every passing moment, so that the new Year is only a scary shadow, a ghost waiting to take me into oblivion.

Flannery O’Connor prays:

Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon.

The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing.

My fear is that I won’t get past what was broken in myself in 2013, in 2012, in 1989 when I was just a babe.

Fear tells me that all I failed at this year will repeat itself in an ugly loop, and my own shadow will encompass all that I am in 2015 and beyond. Do you fear it, too, friend?

But we must fight the Fear Monster.

The truth is, the moon outshines the shadow, the moon reflects the sun and burns with blue light.

And the truth is, God’s present faithfulness is with me in every failing and every success, so I mustn’t be afraid.

My fear is that I will keep trying and no fruit will multiply, no goal will be reached.

I will keep trying to write, but it won’t publish.

I will keep trying to love my boys, but I will end up frustrated and impatient.

I will keep trying to waste less, but I will choose convenience.

I will keep trying to stay on top of everything, my lists, my chores, the details, and I will fail.

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It’s almost climbing season here in Georgia, and Travis is coming to life just thinking about it. The past two times I tried to start climbing with him, I got pregnant, and thus ended my hopes for a new hobby with my husband.

But I found my climbing shoes the other day, one packed into a bag under Isaiah’s crib and another in the boys’ closet, shoved to the bottom of a storage bin.

I’m going to get them out soon, and we are going to hope for the chance to start climbing again, our two adventurous boys in tow.

I don’t understand much about it, but it seems that there is a point in every climber’s ascent towards the top of the rock where they hit a wall. They must choose to move forward, to continue the climb, or go back to the safety of feet on the ground.

But something beautiful waits at the top, something new and glorious. There is a view of the entire climb, a view of the horizon stretching all around, the paths that brought us to the base of the rock in the first place.

We just have to fight the Fear Monster when he nips at our ankles and tries to pull us back down, and we have to continue on, remembering the truth of the beauty that waits at the top.

We usher in the New Year with hope, with a heart of adventure, with a jump in our step.

And we do it together, with the presence of community, with friends to peel back our shadows and give us extra shielding from the bitter bite of our monsters.

Let us say goodbye to the fear of last year, and usher in all the newness of 2015 with confidence in who we are and who we’re called to be. And that’s a hopeful future, indeed.

Happy New Year!