Friday, January 20, 2012

Creating Space

I have really enjoyed reading and discussing Sacred Companions by David Benner with some dear friends back in Tianjin. After I joined them by skype last month, Charly picked up the book and was struck by this quote in the Preface:

 “If you are making significant progress on the transformational journey of Christian spirituality, you have one or more friendships that support that journey. If you do not, you are not. It is that simple.”

It prompted him to take the book along on our three day getaway a week later so we could discuss the idea of spiritual companionship and how we can grow in this area together. Our marriage has been greatly blessed as a result of that much-needed getaway and by the space we created (and are continuing to create) for each other.

David Benner says, “The supreme gift that anyone can give another is to help that person live life more aware of the presence of God. Sacred companions help us remember that this is our Father’s world. They help us hear his voice, be aware of his presence and see his footprints as we walk through life. They accompany us on a journey that is made sacred not by their presence but by the presence of God.”

“Spiritual friendship is a gift of hospitality, presence, and dialogue.”

“The essence of hospitality is taking another person into my space, into my life. This is also the essence of being a soul friend.

Soul hosts prepare for their gift of hospitality by cultivating a place of quiet within themselves. This is the place where they will receive others. If I have no such place within myself, I am unable to offer myself in a gift of soul hospitality. But when I have begun to be a person with a quiet, still center, I can invite others to come and rest there. It is out of this place that soul friends offer their gifts of presence, stillness, safety, and love.

“If I am to have a place of stillness at the core of my being, it will only be because I have learned to offer hospitality to the Spirit. The Spirit, then, becomes the source of my soul hospitality as I make myself available to others.”

“I cannot really be present for another person when my inner world is filled with preoccupations and distractions. This is one of the biggest challenges I face in being present for others—being still within my own soul… If I have no such still inner place, I cannot really be present for others.”

“Soul hospitality is also a gift of safety…Soul friendship is the gift of a place where anything can be said without fear of criticism or ridicule. It is a place where masks and pretensions can be set aside. It is a place where it is safe to share deepest secrets, darkest fears, most acute sources of shame, most disturbing questions or anxieties. It is a place of grace—a place where others are accepted as they are for the sake of who they may become.”

“Love is the motive for the gift of presence that the soul host offers others…Apart from real love for real people, we will always be dealing with secret (or not so secret) impatience, judgmentalism, disgust, resentment, envy, or anger. Real people require real love if we are to give a gift of genuine presence.”

“Presence begins with attentiveness. This demands that I focus on the other person and his or her experience…I must therefore set aside all the things I carry with me in consciousness all day long—my planning for what comes next, my evaluation of how I’m doing and my reflection on what is presently transpiring. These are noises that drown out silence. These are distractions that keep me focused on myself and make it impossible for me to be present to another person.”

“The most important thing I can do is help the other person be in contact with the gracious presence of Christ.”

We create space within our hearts and lives for God, for our spouses, and for others to be able to enter into. I love what Henri Nouwen said about marriage:

“Marriage looked upon from God above is creating a new communion between two people, so that through that visible and tangible communion a new sign will be present in the world to point people toward God’s love…It is a relationship that looks like two hands that fold in an act of prayer. The fingertips touch, but the hands can create a space, like a little tent. Such a space is the space created by love, not by fear. Marriage is creating a new, open space where God’s love can be revealed to the “stranger”: the child, the friend, the visitor.”

This quote makes me think of a special radiant bride who is getting married this weekend and her beautiful reflections about The Wedding to Come while making room for her Bridegroom.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Joy to the World, and most especially the line “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

Creating space for God and for others to enter in.

What distractions and preoccupations are currently blocking the way?

The boys created space away from each other during our sightseeing day in London last summer!
(This picture of “Creating Space” is not really what this post is about, but it makes me laugh J)

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