Sacro Speco—Sacred Space

It’s true, the world is more crowded than it’s ever been—more traffic, more people, more churches, more organizations, social media platforms, more malls, more networks, with calendars full of more things to do and places to experience and less sustainable resources. We are full. We are physically, mentally and emotionally out of space.

My friend Anna homeschools her two young sons. When she reaches max capacity and her boys are begging for a trip to the store she often replies, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the bandwidth for that.”  I cracked up when I heard her say it, imagining her bewildered boys. They understand now that “no bandwidth” translates as “Mama’s got zero space for that.”

Culturally speaking, it seems we’re all out of bandwidth. Particularly in the church, we simply have no room for ideas, thoughts, or unfortunately, people. Especially people who seem to require extra energy or thought. We’re not sure they fit, where they would fit, or if it would fit within our doctrine to fold them into the family. Because if we do that, we have to think harder about our doctrine and our theology and our language and all the things we’ve been saying for the last 200-2000 years. If we let all the people say “Amen” we might have to rethink what we’re “Amen-ing.” I know you see how complicated this is. This is an issue of our collective bandwidth, our energy, our space. We’re just all so dadgum tired right now. We just have space for our house and our kids and our schools and our neighborhood.  How do we make more space for “others”?

The funny things is, it seems we’re good at building more physical space—more churches, more life centers, more outreach centers, more schools. We’re even good at creating more work within our existing structures—renovating, remodeling, updating technology, adding screens and lights. We’re even ok with adding more programs and therefore, more staff. We are building A LOT. And yet at a national level, the church is dying. Why are we building more space for THINGS and less space for people?

It took me across state lines into Arkansas and three days into the grave of silence at a monastery to verbalize what I have been lacking, yet trying to build through the work of Jesus Said Love...a space for love.

I have, we have, YOU have been building alongside me: through outreaches, the ACCESS program, Lovely Enterprises, Stop Demand School, Wild Torch and multiple indie albums; together we have been DOING ALL THE THINGS.  Yet, what I realized this summer was that beyond any program or product, what I desired both personally and for every person who comes through the doors of JSL whether volunteer, staff, or one or needing service: is to create space for God and for people.

I became blinded by the Scriptures I had known so long heralding the wideness of God, a space incomprehensibly expansive: The “wide, green pastures” our Shepherd leads us toward (Psalm 23), the call to “widen your tent pegs” (Isaiah 54) the admonition to “make wide your hearts” (2 Corinthians 6), the love of Christ that is “wide and long and high and deep” (Ephesians 3), and on and on the references go.  

Truly, truly, the kingdom of God is a wide space so free and wild that even former enemies play together. Indeed, we were created to crave the space to run, roam, wander and muse with our Maker. We long for it. The darkness seeks to numb us into a slumber so that we fall for subpar lovers. But no matter how numb we become, the ache remains and calls to us daily - “Come”.

Our world is constricted, so are we. Literally our hearts are clogging up from all the numbing out we’ve been doing - and we’re passing along this tightness to our children. The food and the fear get hard wired into our DNA so that the next generation must too feel the boa-like grip of the Ancient Serpent.

And so this is what it means that the entrance to the wide and expansive Kingdom of God comes by the narrow way. In a darkened world, tight and constricted, it IS still possible to find a space for LOVE.  

Are you out of space? Are you are  tired? Do you have no more to give, no more time to spare and no more room in your head for noise? You barely have space to read this blog. For that, I am grateful, and my hope and prayer is that this simple prompt would help you find Sacro Speco, sacred space.  In cultivating Sacro Speco, you will find Love for others because you will find a generous amount—full and overflowing—for yourself from Christ, your Maker. You will see that you are them, and they are you, and in fact, there is no other—there’s only us.

Throughout the history of God and the people of God, there are stories of sacred spaces where our hearts become wide and the pastures are green. Amidst the backdrop of pain, suffering, desert places, corrupted governments, abandoned cities and seemingly forgotten people, we hear the rumblings of prayers, promises and music from sinners and saints. We are a resilient and holy people - we know our way back to God because God has never stopped leading us. We must simply still ourselves to listen to The Voice.

Today, in spite of our noisy culture, the reminders, the phones, the schedules, the errands and to-do’s would you steal away? Would you take a moment to two or three or four, in the way of Christ, to be led to a solitary place where your heart and lungs have room to beat and breathe?

...And may you find there, a space for Love.

For a musical prompt that may help you find this Sacro Speco, as it does me,  here’s a link to a song called “Wideness” from University Baptist Church in Waco, TX.

“Oh wideness, come searching, repair what went wrong.”