A Spiritual Practice of Making Room
With our recent move back to Portland, I’ve been thinking a lot about the contemplative Christian spiritual principal and practice of making room.
Most of my life is centered on filling room. Whether it be in my schedule, heart, ears (with music, podcasts, etc), and relationships (always busying ourselves, never sitting intimately together), the idea of making room feels abruptly counter intuitive.
When I think about Jesus’ description of prayer, it sounds like making room to me:
When you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you. And when you pray, don’t be like those people who don’t know God. They continue saying things that mean nothing, thinking that God will hear them because of their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him.
– Matthew 6.6-8
- Go into a private place
- make room in your schedule and surroundings; externally and internally
- Don’t multiply words
- don’t fill the time with your own voice, make room to hear and listen
For years, I’ve felt a personal emphasis on making room. I believe it is an important dimension of Jesus’ spirituality and guidance. But how do we “make room?” By Trust. (Trust is the truest definition of faith). Most of the time, I get caught in filling up and busying my mind, schedule, relationships, and prayer because I internally believe it is my surest or quickest way to find fulfillment; at least sense of security, comfort, and satisfaction. It is an unarticulated belief. But the way I fill my time reveals that it is a belief.
Anton Chekhov was very correct when he said, “You are what you believe.” If I’m anxious, it’s because I trust my anxiety will benefit and defend me more than simply trusting God. If I’m chaotically busy, it’s because I believe my busyness will accumulate significance, rather than God’s love and intimacy. Pastors are caught up in this deception often. “You are what you believe;” what you really believe. Is your hope for satisfaction and wholeness in Christ? Or is it in busyness, accomplishment, being liked, or financial security? I have to look deeply at my life to give an honest answer.
To make room requires moving one or more of my methods of security out of the way, at least for some time, in order to give God some space. Doing this takes trust. Especially when I’ve invested heavily emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually in the idea that something else will bring me the satisfaction and wholeness I desire.
To “be still and know” requires my trusting God will meet me in the stillness and knowing. Even when I don’t feel it. Trusting. It takes trust to make room; to be still and know; to be silent; to be loving and receptive to God and others.