Earlier this year, I had the privilege of beginning a journey through the Center for Courage and Renewal with many other young-ish United Methodists from around the country. I can’t explain what a gift this cohort has been, through both our retreat time together and our monthly peer learning circles. Especially since this season in my life has seen an unprecedented amount of change and transition. From large church associate pastor to medium church senior pastor now to small church associate pastor. From mother of one to bereaved parent to mother of two children this side of heaven. From wife of a doctoral student to, well, still a student but now ABD (all but dissertation)!
And through it all, I’ve come to know the magical, mystical art of holding space. At first glance, it seems like a contradiction in terms. After all, space is like nothing and how can you grip nothingness in your two hands?
But my experience with Courage and Renewal practices has taught me that space is like a wide-brimmed cup. If you are fortunate, others will hold the space open for you so you can pour yourself into it, so you can see yourself truly again, so you can once again know how God is gently holding you when it feels like you are lost in the great wide open of here.
And I should have know this. I am a believer in body wisdom – that our bodies can and do teach us the deeper realities of life – so I really should have understood more about holding space. After all, my mothering body has already shown me the wonder of holding space as new life comes into being within.
Holding space recognizes that redemption and transformation and real, honest to goodness growth, can’t be forced. As you embrace the art of it all, you know that the greatest gift you can give, to yourself or to someone else, is to simply hold the space open wide, without judgment, without diminishing their truth, without rushing to conclusions or easy answers.
In this season of my life, there are still a lot of questions and it’s easy to doubt myself. But I also know that if I practice the magical, mystical art of holding space, of resting with the tension, of leaning into the uncertainty, God will unfailingly show up in the space, too.
God’s heart holds space for us. It reminds me of that scripture – “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:1-2 CEB).
I don’t have to be afraid when I feel lost or when I feel a sense of nothing yawning vast around. I don’t have to be tempted to hustle for approval or conform to the expectations around me. God has room to spare, God has space for me and for you and for everyone. Space for breathing and becoming and being. Glory be!