The presence of space, or lack thereof, plays an important role in our lives. It could be physical space, emotional space, mental space, spiritual space, or relational space. Space in its various forms can be given or taken, demanded from or forced upon. Sometimes we need more, sometimes we need less. There can be too much space or not enough. When we encounter a space, we can grow into it, filling it up, or we can shrink back, creating a void. We can feel like we take up too much space or we can worry that we’ll never have enough.
One of our main goals for life here in Boston is to create space where people feel comfortable to be themselves and discover what the Spirit is speaking to them. We believe this happens both in the physical realm of a welcoming setting and in a relational connection of supportive friendship. We hope our home and our friendship provide others what they need to settle into these spiritual conversations. Joe and I have experienced this kind of space for ourselves over the years in the form of friendships, counselors, and spiritual directors. Because we have benefited from the spaces others have given, we do our best to listen well when we encounter others.
I have a deep desire to grow in my understanding of how to create space and take up space in God-honoring ways. There have been seasons and moments when I have felt quite confident in the ways I seemed to take up space, that my presence mattered significantly. There have been other times, though, when I have felt very insecure, fearing I was a burden or requiring too much of another person. I am thankful to have a God who continually reassures me that I am who am, and that’s a good thing - always. I’m learning that the greatest way to honor God is to live fully as the person He has created ME to be.
I have long dreamt of running a bed-and-breakfast. Maybe that dream can still come true someday, but my focus has shifted slightly since working with the homeless population in Boston. I am now acutely aware at how little privacy, if any, individuals have when they are experiencing homelessness. They have no place to be alone, to rest by themselves, a space that is only theirs, that reflects their individuality and personhood. I still hope to one day own a lovely old home where I can host travelers who need a place to lay their head. But I also want to offer that space to people like the women I encounter in the city. Perhaps this kind of space could provide them a room with a door where they can be alone and quiet for a few hours. There they could sleep, meditate or pray. I imagine a place where those desperate for personal space can be away from the noise and constant anxiety that is the reality of living in a shelter or on the streets: a space for them to just BE. Until that becomes a reality, I hope that my counseling work with these homeless women can be a small glimpse of this kind of space.
I have a friend who has been encouraging me to “take up space” by writing and sharing my thoughts in the form of poetry, short stories, etc. I wrote the following poem to try to capture not only the impact of physical and mental space, but also what the emotional space can feel like in the midst of a counseling session. I hope it sheds some light on what it's like to be living and ministering here in Boston.
Space … We don’t know its weight till it’s gone.
From five bedrooms to two, from three baths to one.
Would we fit? Would we miss all the things that we had?
No - in fact, less has meant more.
… And I’m glad.
Glad to be sharing the sink and the mirror.
Glad to be walking, no matter the weather.
To take public transit instead of the car
For the time in the park instead of the yard.
Glad for the chance to see people up close.
Where there’s no place for judgement, no reason to boast.
Each one is so different, so beautiful, unique,
From the color of their skin to the language they speak.
Less property, more chances, more opportunities,
Such joy seeing changes in my own family.
We’ve had to be brave in our own special ways,
But I wouldn’t trade the experience, not one single day.
Space … We don’t know its weight till it’s gone.
From a home to a shelter, from one bedroom to none.
Where will I fit? I’ve lost all that I had.
Nothing is mine anymore.
… And I’m sad.
Sad to be sharing the sink and the mirror.
Sad to be walking, no matter the weather.
No money for transit, all I own in my cart.
I’ll rest in the park, but stay on my guard.
I can’t get away, too many people, too close.
Their voices hold judgement, their eyes only boast.
Each one is the same, a potential enemy,
No matter their color or language they speak.
Less property means struggle and few opportunities,
Especially without support from friends or family.
I’ve had to be brave, every moment, every day.
I’d give anything for this experience to change.
Space … We don’t know it’s weight till it’s here.
A heart willing to speak to a listening ear.
Strength meets vulnerability in the moment of sharing.
Fear meets courage in the moment of caring.
Will she trust me with secrets and unbearable pain?
Will she add salt to my wounds or make me feel shame?
Will it help? Will it hurt? Will it make any difference?
God, help me show up, to risk being present.
Eyes finally meet and we talk for a moment,
Disconnected just briefly from the world as we know it.
Nothing’s been fixed, no problem resolved,
But Peace settles in, and we know we are Loved.
Two paths having crossed at just the right hour.
We part ways feeling thankful for the deep changing power
That comes when we risk meeting face to face.
Any place can become a sacred space.